2014 Pro Bowl: Lavonte David snubbed, won't go even as a replacement

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lavonte David may have had the best season a linebacker has ever had, and yet he still won't get to go to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl.

Lavonte David will not appear in the Pro Bowl in 2014, after a season worthy of winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Until yesterday, injury or another player making it to the Super Bowl (disqualifying them from participating in the Pro Bowl) could have allowed him to go to the Pro Bowl. Barring a last-minute freak injury in the next day or so, that's not going to happen.

This is to a large extent a result of the outdated way in which the Pro Bowl constructs its rosters. In a time of hybrid 4-3/3-4 defenses and an abundance of pass rushers, it has become impossible for a 4-3 outside linebacker to make the Pro Bowl. Those six roster spots are all absorbed by stand-up edge rushers -- to compliment the other six edge rushers that make the Pro Bowl as defensive ends. Yes, twelve edge rushers get to go Hawaii, but there's no room for the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL.

Even with that explanation, Lavonte David's year stacks up with that of any of the six Pro Bowl outside linebackers in the Pro Bowl, which has been decoupled from conference voting for the first time in its history. Take a look (stats from Pro Football Reference, tackles for loss from the NFL):

Player Tm Sacks Interceptions Passes Defensed Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Tackles Assists Tackles for Loss Safeties
Lavonte David TAM 6 5 9 2 1 106 39 20 1
John Abraham ARI 11.5 0 3 4 0 31 6 14 1
Ahmad Brooks SFO 8.5 1 7 2 1 63 12 12 0
Tamba Hali KAN 11 1 1 5 2 39 7 12 0
Justin Houston KAN 11 0 5 1 3 44 4 11 0
Robert Mathis IND 19.5 0 2 10 0 46 18 15 1
Terrell Suggs BAL 10 0 0 0 1 47 33 13 0

Note how Lavonte David leads that group in most of those statistics. How Tamba Hali and Terrell Suggs had far worse seasons than David. How he probably had the best year of any of those players.

In fact, you could argue that Lavonte David had the best season a linebacker has ever had in the NFL. With three games left in the season, Lavonte David had 43 'Defeats', a measure used by Football Outsiders that essentially tallies impact plays on defense. As far as I can tell he then added three third down stops and three more tackles for loss not on third down, which would give him 49 Defeats on the season. Only one player ever notched more (they have stats going back to 1996), and that was J.J. Watt with 56 last season -- when he won Defensive Player of the Year.

And yet Lavonte David doesn't make the Pro Bowl?

The most jarring aspect of his snubbing is that Lavonte David came in fifth in fan voting, per ESPN. This wasn't due to the fans' lack of passion or some other nonsensical storyline like that. It wasn't due to media disrespect, as the media voted him a first-team All-Pro (they don't get a Pro Bowl vote). Had it been up to either the fans or the media, David would be travelling to Hawaii.

No, Lavonte David was snubbed because NFL players and coaches didn't think he had a good enough season to go. His fellow players, and his coaches. The people with supposedly the most expertise to decide the issue -- although they never take it as seriously as the fans do, a fact well-established by Ross Tucker in 2008, and several times since then. Maybe they should, though: a lot of their contract incentives are bound to Pro Bowl selections.

David can only do one thing, now: go out and blow everyone away all over again next year.

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