The Pro Bowl voting procedures are kind of a joke in the best of times. I mean, let's be real, it's a pageant contest/popularity contest at its core, anyway, and with where things stand right now, it's kinda comical.
The way the vote is split, and the way players and fans both vote, would give me great pause if I was an NFL player. Tying any key incentives to this status has always baffled me, the formula is less than scientific and already this year we've had a controversy with the process almost before voting got started.
You see, the teams get to submit the eligible players to the league at each position. And teams will play games. And the Patriots are notorious for, let's say, blurring the lines of fair or unfair practices, and them managing not to submit the name of one of their best players on the ballot has already become a thing. In Week 11. With the final vote so far away.
Yes, after inquiries from the media as to why one of the best young corners in the NFL was not among the bevy of names available to vote for, J.C. Jackson is now on the online ballot. Kinda crazy it came to this, right?
One would assume, for starters, the following:
The NFL leader in interceptions would surely be on the online ballot, right? The guy who has picks in five straight games, and who undercut Marquise Brown on Sunday night -- with the entire world watching -- to continue his streak would surely be on that list, correct? I mean with Brown playing 94% of Baltimore's offense snaps, on a night when Stephon Gilmore was out injured, and managing to do basically nothing, the corner who shadowed him is absolutely on the Pro Bowl ballot, right?
Forgive me if I don't chalk his absence up to mere happenstance. An oversight.
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This is an organization under Bill Belichick that frets and obsesses about everything. They seek every loophole in the game day manual and rule book. It's who they are and what they do, and the fact that Jackson is an emerging star and a pending restricted free agent who might draw some interesting offer sheets -- the kind of player they'd prefer to squat on if possible, especially with many in the NFL bracing for a trade of superstar Gilmore this offseason -- that has nothing to do with this clerical error?
Total fluke that the team would prefer to submit the names of every McCourty bother (maybe even a few that aren't in the NFL, like a McCourty cousin or two), and leave Jackson off. Can't hurt! Might keep the cost down. If I was the NFLPA I'd be looking into the matter (and sources said they did, with the NFL assuring them Jackson would indeed get his due), and if I was the NFL, seeing as how the guy who is on a wild interception streak isn't even on the ballot, it was only right to make sure Jackson was added.
Wasn't the first time they'd have to step in on a Patriots matter. Seems like something happens with them every year. Spygate. Deflategate. Taping-the-sidelines-from-the-press-box-gate. Now, Pro Bowl-gate. Did I leave anything out? It's hard to get the benefit of the doubt with all those gates.
So, in the end, Jackson becomes the 75th corner added to this list. Perhaps in the future, NFL Football Operations should oversee the process. Maybe add a write-in menu? I mean otherwise an enterprising team could just leave their QB off and see if anybody notices. Or just list the entire active rosters, because you can't run out of space on the internet.
Niners have big O-line problems, questions about WRs, QB
The 49ers have some serious offensive line issues. There, I said it.
They get the benefit of the doubt on so many things run-related. And Kyle Shanahan is indeed the handed-down disciple of the "I'll gut you" style of offensive zone play calling. He remains a beast.
But they have not been nearly as effective with that stuff since Raheem Mostert went down with injury and they seem quite vulnerable to getting their quarterback's face ripped off on any given play. Let's keep mind that at this point it looks like they reached for Weston Richburg, financially, and overpaid for his services. And the Joshua Garnett selection might be a whiff. Looking that way.
Otherwise, the rest of their line is composed of journeymen and place holders, which is far from ideal for a team that entered 2020 thinking it was one of the elite organizations in football and about to compete for a Lombardi Trophy. My, how the mighty have fallen.
I also have significant reservations about the receiving group as presently constructed. They lack elite speed and quick twitch guys and have missed badly on guys like Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne. Perhaps they got it right with the 2019 draft class, but there are more questions than answers with this group.
Shanahan is one of the premier receiver evaluators in the game. So I'm sure they will get it right over time. And consider me still among the legions of people close to that organization, in that organization and around the league who fully expect the 49ers to evaluate other quarterbacks next year, as we've been reporting.
Vikings suddenly alright behind youth brigade
The Vikings' youth movement looks better each week. They regrouped last month, shedding the Yannick Ngakoue contract, and got better in the process. The run defense has improved, and rookie D.J. Wonnum is one of a handful of rookies stepping up.
Wonnum helped close out another key divisional win against the Bears, as he did recently against the Packers. Ezra Cleveland has stepped up and been a part of a reconstructed offensive line that has improved in leaps over September. Justin Jackson is a dominant rookie receiver who seems unstoppable at times. Jeff Gladney is helping to shore up a secondary that looked lost in the first six weeks of the season.
The kids are alright and the youth brigade is in full force. Minnesota is reaping rewards from the 15 draft selections they accumulated and it's served to save their season, make them suddenly viable in the NFC playoff landscape, helped put quarterback Kirk Cousins more at ease and bodes very well for the future of a franchise that seemed on the brink of teetering about a month ago.