Why Cruz, Pierre-Paul aren't on the ballot

December, 17, 2011
12/17/11
10:16
AM ET
We've been hearing lots of outrage recently from our easily outraged New York Giants fans about why wide receiver Victor Cruz (third in the NFL in receiving yards) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (fourth in the NFL in sacks) aren't on the Pro Bowl ballot. The answer, as I had understood it, was because the Giants didn't list either player as a starter at his position prior to the season. They went with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora at the defensive end spots and Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham at the wide receiver spots. Pretty simple, and if you go back to August, it made sense. No one knew what kind of contribution Cruz and Pierre-Paul were going to make. In their wildest dreams, the Giants couldn't have imagined either having the season he's had.

But the explanation isn't so simple, as it turns out. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News did some research and found that the Giants could have corrected this situation at any point (and, in the case of Pierre-Paul, clumsily tried to at one point) and that the NFL's system for constructing the Pro Bowl ballot is weird and unnecessarily complicated.

Basically, what Ralph learned is that teams aren't stuck with their initial decisions about players, and if they'd wanted to the Giants could have taken Umenyiora off the ballot and put in Pierre-Paul at any point. They could also have taken off Manningham and put in Cruz. Could also have taken Brandon Jacobs out of the "flex" spot they'd put him in on the ballot and put Cruz in there. But they didn't do any of that, likely because they didn't want to upset the guys they took out. They did try to take advantage of their lack of linebacking depth to get Pierre-Paul some votes, as Ralph notes here:
He did indeed appear briefly on the ballot, I believe in late October or early November, and then he disappeared. According to a Giants spokesman, they added Pierre-Paul to the ballot as a middle linebacker just so he'd have his name on the ballot and people could vote for him in the midst of his outstanding season. He was there for a few days before the NFL stepped in and said players must be listed at their correct position. So Pierre-Paul's name was removed.

So, yeah, it's a bit of a silly process, but the Pro Bowl is a bit of a silly thing all around, isn't it? And we're only talking about the fan vote here, which counts for one-third of a player's score in deciding whether he goes to Hawaii or not. The coaches and players also vote, and if Cruz and/or Pierre-Paul gets enough votes from those groups, they could still go. Also, eventually people do drop out and qualified replacements are named. Odds are pretty good these guys both get their shot.

Regardless, now you know. Thanks, Ralph. See you Sunday.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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