Two Vikings make ‘All-Loser Team'

Winning helps players get noticed and get into the Pro Bowl. So who are the players on losing teams that deserved to get into the Pro Bowl but were passed over for players on a winning team? GMs, personnel directors, coaches and players weighed in to form an "All-Loser Team" – formidable players from losing teams that didn't make the Pro Bowl.

Of the 76 non-special teams players originally selected for the NFC and AFC Pro Bowl squads two weeks ago, more than two-thirds, 53 to be exact, are from winning teams in 2010. And 47 of those players represent franchises that qualified for this season's playoffs.

The average number of victories for the teams from which the players were chosen for the all-star game that will be played in Honolulu the week before Super Bowl XLV is 9.7.

That doesn't leave a lot of room, or many spots, either, for outstanding players from less-than-standout teams, does it? The old adage that "all publicity is good publicity" doesn't necessarily ring true with the convoluted Pro Bowl balloting. Oh, sure, there are a precious few Pro Bowl players from losing clubs - offensive tackle Jordan Gross of Carolina, for instance, labored for the team with the league's worst record - but not very many at all.

"It goes along with the (winning) territory," said New England left guard Logan Mankins, who was chosen for his third Super Bowl despite playing in only nine games because of a prolonged contract dispute. "Winning gets you noticed more. And it has something to do with the Pro Bowl (votes)."

So to correct the inequity – "oversight" is too strong a word, and the term "snub" implicitly connotes that a player was passed over in favor of an inferior performer – The Sports Xchange surveyed general managers, personnel directors, assistant coaches, head coaches, and even a few players, for performers worthy of the first annual "All-Loser Team." After all, if John Madden can have his own fictitious team, and Phil Simms can present his "All-Iron" squad, why not a roster exclusively comprised of players from franchises sadly saddled with losing records?

The players themselves, of course, weren't losers, and could probably argue pretty convincingly that "All-Losers" is a flawed moniker. But we're too dumb and lazy to agonize over something perhaps more appropriate. But each of them unfortunately played for a team that won seven games or fewer in '10 and didn't make the playoffs (apologies to Seahawks players). The other prerequisite: That a player could not have been originally picked for the Pro Bowl game (injury replacements don't count) or have been selected for any of the All-Pro teams named to date.

In contrast to the Pro Bowl rosters, the average number of wins in 2010 for the 24 players chosen to the "All-Loser" team (11 offense and 13 on defense) was 5.3.

The teams:

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
WR: Santana Moss, Washington
TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit
LT: Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati
LG: Rob Sims, Detroit
C: Alex Mack, Cleveland
RG: Jake Scott, Tennessee
RT: Jason Smith, St. Louis
QB: Matt Schaub, Houston
RB: Chris Johnson, Tennessee
FB: Lawrence Vickers, Cleveland

LE: Charles Johnson, Carolina
NT (3-4): Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland
DT: Darnell Dockett, Arizona
DT: Kyle Williams, Buffalo
RE: Mario Williams, Houston
SLB: Chad Greenway, Minnesota
MLB (4-3): Stephen Tulloch, Tennessee
ILB (3-4): Patrick Willis, San Francisco
WLB: Brian Orakpo, Washington
CB: Champ Bailey, Denver
CB: Antoine Winfield, Minnesota
FS: Michael Griffin, Tennessee
SS: Donte Whitner, Buffalo

We're biased, of course, but it's not a bad squad. Eleven of the players have been to at least one Pro Bowl and seven have multiple Pro Bowl nods on their resumes. The group of two dozen totals 29 Pro Bowl invitations. Nine of those belong to Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, one of the premier cover defenders of this era and a likely Hall of Fame inductee in the future, but that certainly doesn't diminish the overall accomplishments of the "All-Loser" team.

Including Bailey, three members of the "All-Loser" team have been to four Pro Bowl contests or more.

The wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) and Santana Moss (Washington), are especially impressive.

Despite a pair of rookies as starting quarterbacks for much of the year, Fitzgerald still posted a fourth straight season with 90 receptions or more. Moss registered a career-best 93 catches despite an uneven quarterback situation. Matt Schaub (Houston), a former Pro Bowl most valuable player, rang up a second straight year with 4,000-plus passing yards and at least 24 touchdown passes. While Chris Johnson (Tennessee) ran for 642 fewer yards than a year ago, and his average rush declined by 1.3 yards, he was still the NFL's fourth-leading ground gainer.

The offensive line is very good, too, led by left tackle Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati), who surrendered only two sacks, both in "Hail Mary" situations.

There are people in the league who not only felt Whitworth had the best season of his five-year career, but was one of the league's three best left tackles. And Johnson insisted his diminished statistics in '10 had nothing to do with his running style.

Said Johnson, who hopes his overall performance in three seasons will merit him a new contract: "I was still the same guy, believe me."

On the defensive side, Charles Johnson (Carolina) had 11.5 sacks, the second-most in the NFL by a left end. Stephen Tulloch (Tennessee) was the league's second-leading tackler, according to unofficial NFL statistics. Despite a lack of bulk, Kyle Williams (Buffalo) made the switch to nose tackle in the Bills' new 3-4, and was actually named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for the injured Richard Seymour. Patrick Willis (San Francisco) is a tackling machine, who has made four Pro Bowl teams in the past, but was hampered this season by injuries and the 49ers' performance.

Strong safety Donte Whitner (Buffalo) posted only one interception but was the fifth leading tackler in the league. Michael Griffin (Tennessee) led all NFL free safeties in tackles and also had four interceptions. And, of course, there is Bailey, who at age 32 remains a top-shelf coverage guy.

None of this is to suggest that any members of the "All-Loser" team should have been elected to the Pro Bowl in place of players selected at their positions, or chosen for any of the various All-Pro squads. But the league is certainly filled with very good players, and some of their achievements go largely unnoticed because of their teams' records.

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