Aaron Rodgers did not make the Pro Bowl. Michael Vick, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan all made it instead.
That’s not the egregious part, as that trio is certainly deserving of the honor. The egregious part is that Rodgers led his conference in quarterback rating (101.9) and couldn’t make it. The one cumulative statistic we use to judge quarterback play lists Aaron Rodgers as the NFC’s best, and he can’t make the Pro Bowl?
How many times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 has a quarterback led his conference in QB rating and failed to make the Pro Bowl team (minimum 14 games)? The answer is seven. That’s 40 years, 80 Pro Bowl teams and seven snubs, including Mr. Rodgers. If you lead your conference in QB rating, you have a 92.5 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl. Aaron Rodgers landed in the other 7.5 percent. Here are the other six since 1970, in order of QB rating:
No. 6 John Hadl, 1970
Hadl was the first in the merger era. The Chargers QB had a 77.1 QB rating -- 0.6 points better than Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica -- and threw for 2,388 yards and 22 touchdowns. (That TD total tied Lamonica for tops in the AFC and only ranked two back of San Francisco’s John Brodie in all of football.) The only reasonable explanation for why Hadl was left off the Pro Bowl team for Miami’s Bob Griese and Kansas City’s Len Dawson was that 1970 was Hadl’s first season in the NFL (after eight in the AFL) and perhaps the voters weren’t familiar with him or didn’t want an AFL guy to make the Pro Bowl in his first year in the NFL. But any statistical explanation would be bogus. Griese threw for 370 fewer yards and 10 fewer TDs than Hadl while throwing two more picks, and Dawson threw 510 fewer yards than Hadl while throwing more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13). And all Hadl has to show for it is the cruel realization that he’s the first NFL quarterback to lead his conference in the all-encompassing QB rating stat and not be elected to the Pro Bowl.
No. 5 Greg Landry, 1976
Landry of the Lions had an 89.6 QB rating, or 0.3 points better than the Vikings’ Fran Tarkenton in the NFC, but his case is one of the weaker ones. Tarkenton and the Cardinals’ Jim Hart both had better seasons than Landry. Roger Staubach of the Cowboys also represented the NFC despite having a QB rating of 79.9. Staubach threw for nearly 40 more yards per game than Landry, however. The fact that Staubach’s Cowboys won five more games than Landry’s Lions also probably had something to do with it.
No. 4 Roger Staubach, 1973
Speaking of Staubach, he was left off the NFC Pro Bowl squad after putting up a 94.6 QB rating in the ’73 season. Tarkenton (93.2) and Hart (80.0) went instead. Staubach didn’t hurt for Pro Bowls. He made six of them in his career, including five consecutive from ’75-’79. But why Hart got the nod over him in ’73 -- despite having fewer yards, fewer TDs, a lower QB rating and completing 7 percent less of his passes -- remains a mystery.
No. 3 Steve Bartkowski, 1983
Atlanta’s Bartkowski comes in next on the list, as his 97.6 QB rating in ’83 barely nudged out Joe Theismann’s 97.0 rating. Neither of them went to the Pro Bowl that year, however. Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers (94.6 QB rating) and Neil Lomax of the St. Louis Cardinals (92.0 QB rating) represented the NFC in Honolulu.
No. 2 Phil Simms, 1990
Simms played 14 games for the New York Giants in 1990, and his 92.7 QB rating beat out Randall Cunningham’s 91.6 and Joe Montana’s 89.0 for best in the NFC. Simms ranked second to Montana in completion percentage, but he ranked only 11th out of 14 NFC quarterbacks in pass attempts. Head coach Bill Parcells pounded the ball behind running back Ottis Anderson, and the Giants ranked second in the NFL in rushing attempts on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Combine that with a defense led by Lawrence Taylor, and Simms became somewhat overlooked. (Simms also broke his foot late in the season and missed the playoffs.)
No. 1 Chad Pennington, 2002
Poor Chad. Pennington played 15 games, starting 12, for the New York Jets in 2002 and posted an impressive 104.2 QB rating. Rich Gannon of the Oakland Raiders ranked second in the AFC at 97.3. Pennington also led the conference in completion percentage (68.9) while throwing for 3,120 yards and 22 TDs. What hurt Pennington was that he didn’t steal the starting job from a struggling Vinny Testaverde until the fifth game of the season. Although he took the Jets from 1-4 to 9-7 and an AFC East title, voters didn’t feel Pennington’s numbers were better than the gaudy stats of Gannon, Peyton Manning and others.