Pro Bowl selections again bring `Huhs?'

ON THE NFL

January 06, 2002|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown has 95 catches - one shy of Ben Coates' franchise record - but was not named to the AFC Pro Bowl team released last week.

Arizona Cardinals free safety Kwamie Lassiter has nine interceptions - second most in the NFC - but he's not going to Honolulu next month, either.

St. Louis Rams middle linebacker London Fletcher is the playmaker for the NFC's No. 1 defense on a team with an NFL-high 13 wins, but he was passed over in favor of Jeremiah Trotter, a free-agent-to-be the Philadelphia Eagles won't even try to re-sign in the off-season.

Another year, another "what's up with that?" Pro Bowl vote.

The latest round of tabulations in the shared voting among fans, players and coaches has produced the usual head-scratching results. Defensive end Robert Porcher of the Detroit Lions said he was shocked - and he made the team.

"I am a little shocked," said Porcher, who has 11 sacks. "I knew I had the numbers, but I just didn't think I would go, just because of our record [1-14]."

Porcher joins Michael Strahan of the New York Giants and Hugh Douglas of the Eagles at defensive end on the team. Strahan needs one sack today against Green Bay to break Mark Gastineau's single-season NFL record of 22. Douglas is a vital cog in Philadelphia's playoff defense.

But that doesn't make it any easier for Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice. Rice has 11 sacks and 61 tackles. Douglas has 9 1/2 sacks and 41 tackles.

"It is what it is, and it's been this way for me basically every year," Rice said. "I always get overlooked. I don't know what more I have to do. ... I had 16 1/2 sacks one year and didn't get picked [but went as an alternate], so it's nothing new."

There are several glaring omissions this year, including Brown in New England. His 95 catches for 1,154 yards rank fourth in the AFC. The three receivers with more catches - Rod Smith of Denver, Jimmy Smith of Jacksonville and Marvin Harrison of Indianapolis - all made it. So did Oakland's Tim Brown, who has 10 fewer catches but four more touchdowns (nine to five). Both Browns have punt-return touchdowns, too.

Troy Brown almost certainly will break Coates' record for catches in a season today against Carolina. Brown carried the Patriots early in the season until their running game and defense hit stride. He will not complain about the Pro Bowl snub, either.

"I'm all set, man," he said after being named first alternate at wide-out. "We've got bigger fish to catch than this. Team things. It would have been an honor to be considered among the best, but that's not how I think. That's not who I am."

Wide receiver was perhaps the toughest position to pick. A number of prominent players were left off the rosters, including Chicago's Marty Booker (94 catches), Pittsburgh's Hines Ward (90) and Minnesota's Randy Moss (80). This is the first time in Moss' four-year career he wasn't selected, but given his "I play when I want to play" stance in midseason, his snub is the least surprising.

Testaverde's swan song?

The unraveling of another New York Jets season might cost quarterback Vinny Testaverde his job next season. Testaverde became embroiled in a finger-pointing controversy after he threw an ill-advised pass down the middle of the field with time running out against Buffalo last week, rather than throw the ball away and come back with a better play.

A day after the 14-9 loss, Testaverde questioned offensive coordinator Paul Hackett's play-calling and clock management. He also feigned surprise that he had the authority to change plays. "I didn't know that, but I do know that now," he said, "so maybe things will be different in the future."

But Hackett said after the game that Testaverde can audible whenever he wants and has done so in the past.

All of which leaves the 9-6 Jets needing to win today at Oakland to assure themselves a playoff spot. If they miss the playoffs with their second straight collapse, Testaverde, 38, could be gone. He's guaranteed $9 million if he's on the roster June 4, but it's doubtful the Jets would want a quarterback who couldn't get a clinching win two years in a row.

On the firing line

The winds of change have already stirred up coaching vacancies in San Diego and Minnesota. Are Indianapolis and Carolina next?

Jim Mora hopes to survive the Colts' injury-wracked, interception-prone 5-10 season. Quarterback Peyton Manning insists he wants Mora back despite their midseason flap. But two sets of numbers work against Mora's return. The Colts have lost seven games by double digits, most in the league. And they've slipped from 15th to 21st to 30th in total defense the past three years. That's a tough sell, even though team president Bill Polian never improved Mora's talent level on defense.

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