Picking apart the Pro Bowl selection process has become sport for NFL fans frustrated by seemingly unworthy choices.
The groans have almost become automatic when the NFL announces players appearing as replacements for those unable to participate for reasons ranging from injuries to participation in the Super Bowl.
Sometimes the replacement process works out best for all involved. That was the case when the San Francisco 49ers' advancement to the Super Bowl cleared the way for Arizona's Daryl Washington and Washington's London Fletcher to represent their teams on the NFC squad as inside linebackers. Both players have been deserving, but it was tough beating out the 49ers' Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
Washington's selection as a replacement for Bowman makes him a Pro Bowl player for the first time. He had nine sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception for a Cardinals defense that ranked among the NFL's top five in expected points added (EPA), Total QBR, third-down rate, interception rate, sack rate, first downs, red zone efficiency and passer rating. Washington signed a contract extension before the season.
The NFC West also will see Seattle's Russell Wilson ascend to the Pro Bowl.
Wilson was the third alternate in voting that ended right before Wilson tossed four touchdown passes during a 42-13 victory over San Francisco. Wilson then led the winning 90-yard touchdown drive against St. Louis a week later before guiding Seattle to the verge of the NFC Championship Game with a record-setting performance against Atlanta in the divisional playoffs.
Wilson will replace the Falcons' Matt Ryan, who suffered a shoulder injury against the 49ers on Sunday. Ryan will miss the game. Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III already withdrew from the Pro Bowl.
Wilson finished the regular season eighth in Total QBR and fifth in NFL passer rating. He led the NFL in both categories from Week 10 through the divisional round of the playoffs, where a last-second loss to Atlanta eliminated the Seahawks. Wilson becomes the Seahawks' first Pro Bowl quarterback since Matt Hasselbeck and the first quarterback in team history to achieve Pro Bowl status for the team as one of its own draft choices.