This is what happens when you ignore the writers and turn the vote over to the fans, players and coaches. You get a Pro Bowl minus a leading candidate for NFL most valuable player, the league's No. 3 rusher of 2000, the league's No. 3 rusher of all-time, the league's top receiver and the probable NFL rookie of the year.
Pro Bowl rosters, such as they are, were announced Thursday. Aggrieved parties, the line forms here:
1. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: Without McNabb, the Eagles would not be going to the playoffs and angling for their first division title since 1988. Without McNabb, the Eagles would be the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead, the Pro Bowl voters went with Jeff Garcia, who quarterbacks some team from San Francisco that used to be the 49ers.
2. Mike Anderson, Denver: He's the third Bronco to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the last three years--which means, of course, it must be the offensive line. If so, why were no Bronco guards, tackles or centers named to the AFC starting lineup?
3. Emmitt Smith, Dallas: Became the third man in league history to rush for 15,000 yards, courtesy of 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Says he wants to play three or four years, which gives him more than enough time to pass Barry Sanders and Walter Payton on the all-time rushing list. But, he's no Charlie Garner.
4. Ed McCaffrey, Denver: Interesting: McCaffrey has caught 88 passes, the most in the league, from two quarterbacks, Brian Griese and Gus Frerotte. Griese hasn't played since Nov. 13 because of an injury, but he's going to Hawaii and McCaffrey isn't.
5. Brian Urlacher, Chicago: He leads the Bears with 142 tackles, he's tied for the team lead with six sacks, he plays a fierce middle linebacker and he could be the next Mike Singletary. But he's a rookie from New Mexico playing on a 4-10 team. One, two, three strikes, you're out.
6. Curtis Martin, New York Jets: Has rushed for 1,105 yards, caught 57 passes, scored 10 touchdowns and does it all in Gotham. New York voters apparently still are recuperating from the Subway Series.
7. Joe Horn, New Orleans: His numbers--82 catches, 1,164 yards, seven touchdowns--are good if that's Daunte Culpepper or Kurt Warner on the other end of the relay. But what if it's Jeff Blake, followed by Aaron Brooks?
8. Shannon Sharpe, Baltimore: Along those same lines, has caught 58 passes as a tight end on the same team as Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer.
IT'S THE SCHEDULE, STUPID
What happened to the Rams, Colts and Redskins? How did the Eagles and Saints turn it around so quickly? Ever since the NFL decided to penalize success and reward mediocrity with its parity-based scheduling formula, the answers can be found in every team's media guide:
St. Louis Rams
1999: Coming off 4-12 season, received fifth-place schedule. Went 13-3, won Super Bowl.
2000: Received first-place schedule. Now 9-5, in second place in NFC West, need to at least split road games at Tampa Bay and New Orleans to return to playoffs.
1999: Coming off 3-13 season, received fifth-place schedule. Went 13-3, lost to Tennessee in divisional playoffs.
2000: Received first-place schedule. Now 8-6, in third in AFC East, need to sweep last two games--at Miami, home to Minnesota--to have a shot at wild-card berth.
1999: Coming off 6-10 season, received fourth-place schedule. Went 10-6, won NFC East title.
2000: Received first-place schedule. Now 7-7, need to sweep last two games--at Pittsburgh, home to Arizona--and outside help to gain wild-card berth.
1999: Went 14-2, reached AFC championship game.
2000: Received first-place schedule. Now 7-7 after 3-7 start, eliminated from playoff contention.
1999: Went 9-7, won AFC West title.
2000: Received first-place schedule. Now 5-9, in fourth in AFC West.
1999: Went 11-5, placed second in AFC East, earned wild-card berth.
2000: Received second-place schedule. Now 7-7, in fourth place in AFC East, eliminated from playoff contention.
1999: Went 5-11, finished last in NFC East.
2000: Received fifth-place schedule. Now 10-5, in second place in NFC East, playoff berth clinched.
New Orleans Saints
1999: Went 3-13, finished last in NFC West.
2000: Received fifth-place schedule. Now 9-5, lead NFC West.
1999: Went 8-8, finished fourth in AFC West.
2000: Received fourth-place schedule. Now 11-3, lead AFC West, playoff berth clinched.
1999: Coming off Super Bowl championship season, went 6-10 with first-place schedule, finished last in AFC West.
2000: Received fifth-place schedule. Now 10-4, in second place in AFC West, playoff berth clinched.
New York Giants
1999: Went 7-9, finished third in NFC East.
2000: Received third-place schedule. Now 10-4, lead NFC East.
New York Jets
1999: Went 8-8, finished fourth in AFC East.