Mens Oakland Raiders Derek Carr Nike Black Game Jersey

It looks like Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is going to be selected for the Pro Bowl this season.

No, we haven’t gone back in time by a year, and yes, the Pro Bowl is still the NFL’s year-end All-Star Game.

But because Tom Brady is almost not going to play in the Pro Bowl — he’ll be deep in Super Bowl preparation (and hoping on his injured thumb heals) — Carr, an alternative for the game, is probably going to wind up playing for the AFC team.

Carr’s backdoor Pro Bowl selection after an objectively mediocre (at best) season stands as not only the clearest indictment yet that the actual Pro Bowl game needs to be abolished and turned into an All-Star Weekend, but also as a big, ugly stain on the quality of play in the NFL — and particularly the AFC.

Carr’s 2017 season was closer in impact to his rookie season than his 2015 and 2016 campaigns — that’s not an “All-Star level”.

That said, there is one way I can justify him playing in this year’s Pro Bowl: after he was unable to play in the Pro Bowl last year because of his broken leg, he probably deserves it.

No one can say that Carr isn’t a nice guy.

So he’s got that going for him.

But in every other way, this is ridiculous.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) points to the replay of Amari Cooper catching a touchdown pass in the first quarter of their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

My skepticism towards Carr is well-documented, and writing this will hardly do a thing to endear me to Raiders fans who believe that their quarterback can do no wrong, but this is not a big-picture question.

No, while I have more questions than answers regarding Carr’s development as a quarterback and career trajectory, those have been put aside.

This is about the 2017 season, and no matter if you think that Carr is a surefire future Hall of Famer or a scrub who deserved to be benched for EJ Manuel last season (I’m neither) I feel comfortable saying with certainty that no sane person could have watched Carr play in 2017 and through to themselves “this is an All-Star season.”

Not only did Carr have a disjointed and inaccurate season, he was the man in charge of a team that dramatically underachieved in 2017. Remember when the Raiders were the trendy Super Bowl pick in the preseason — in large part because of Carr and a presumably high-powered offense? Well, Oakland finished 6-10, the most disappointing team in the AFC.

Are we rewarding that? Even indirectly?

Smith, the passive firebrand, is backdooring his way into the Pro Bowl, too, but he can make an argument that he deserves to be there — he had the 10th best QBR and DVOA ranking in the league in 2017. Smith, the first alternate quarterback, will play for the Philip Rivers, who says he is injured but is probably avoiding the Pro Bowl so that he doesn’t have to book Orlando 10 hotel rooms to house all of his kids for the week. Even for multimillionaires, those costs add up.

For the record, Carr was 22nd in the NFL in QBR and 13th in DVOA.

Personally, I would have taken Marcus Mariota over Carr — if for no other reason than to reward a good (but drastically misused) quarterback from a playoff team. Mariota is the third alternate, behind Carr.

I would not take Blake Bortles, though the same logic could apply to him — Bortles is just too bad to be a Pro Bowler and was justly left off the alternate list. (He did have a better QBR than Carr this season, though.)

And that might be the real crux of this year’s Pro Bowl problem. I’m not blaming Carr for making the game — again, while he isn’t deserving of an All-Star game appearance on his Pro Football Reference page (in a few years, no one will remember how he got into the game, only that he had made the Pro Bowl for three-straight years), it’s not his fault that there are only six worthwhile quarterbacks in the 16-team AFC.

If not Carr, who would be going? I can justify Mariota, but Carr was statistically better than the Titans quarterback this year (who was 15th in QBR, 20th in DVOA), so really I’m only rewarding the playoff appearance. And if Bortles found a way to be a Pro Bowler this season, the league would need to disband all together.

Not the game.. the entire league.

I’m a Tyrod Taylor apologist, but even I can’t come close to justifying him playing in an All-Star game. After that?

The horror! Oh, the horror!

Josh McCown? Andy Dalton? Joe Flacco? Jacoby Brissett? Jay Cutler? DeShone Kizer?

I’m only half kidding about the quarterback who threw 22 interceptions to 11 touchdowns for a winless team.

That’s how bad (or, if you’re optimistic, top-heavy) the state of quarterback play in the AFC is at the moment.

Is there a way to get Jimmy Garoppolo — who played half of this season in the AFC for the Patriots (though he didn’t play) — onto the AFC squad? He has more of a claim to a Pro Bowl appearance following the 2017 season than Carr or any of the players that clearly follow him on the list. (Jimmy G was the league’s MVP in December, after all.)

Oh, and Carr might not even go to Orlando. Remember when he broke the transverse processes in his back in early October? That’s justification enough to not play in a meaningless exhibition in Orlando.
(Seriously… move the game back to Hawaii.)

That said, if Carr does play in the Pro Bowl, I won’t want to hear anyone mention that injury as an excuse for Carr’s poor play again.

What a bizarre situation that would be: fans arguing that an injury limited Carr all season, only to see him “play through it” at an end-of-season All-Star game…

Everything about this is messed up, so I’ll take the impetus to propose getting rid of the traditional Pro Bowl game and instead turn the weekend into an All-Star skills competition that leads into a 7-on-7 single-elimination tournament where the eight highest vote-getting players are captains who will select seven teammates (conference affiliation doesn’t matter for the 64-man player pool or the 7-on-7 selection).

I, for one, would prefer to watch Aaron Donald play wide receiver against an elite cornerback in a wrap-up game than two teams go through the motions (unless you’re forever-try-hard Kirk Cousins) for 60 painful minutes.

Right now, the Pro Bowl features less-than-ideal rosters playing less-than-real football. Carr’s probable selection is only the latest example of how compromised this game is.

We might as well lean all the way into the mediocrity of it all. That way it would be funny, instead of marginally insulting.

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