Sure, there are always beefs about NFL Pro Bowl snubs.
And local scribes and sportscasters who cover their teams are quick to highlight those perceived injustices.
So I wasn’t surprised to see The Indianapolis Star point out that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck got passed over for the Pro Bowl.
But the real snub in Indianapolis isn’t Luck. He’s a year away, maybe two, from being Pro Bowl worthy.
The real stunner to me is the exclusion of Colts punter Pat McAfee. I’m not just being a homer here. You have to watch McAfee play to appreciate what he brings to his team.
Forget for a moment that McAfee’s stats are very close to those of Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who was voted onto the AFC Pro Bowl team this season.
McAfee averages 48.4 yards per punt compared to Colquitt’s 46.9. McAfee has put 35.3 percent of his punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line while Colquitt has done that 56 percent of the time. That’s a pretty important statistic in Colquitt’s favor. I give you that.
But if you have someone breaking free on a punt or kick return with only the kicker between the ball carrier and the goal line, who do you want in there? The answer is easy: McAfee. I would argue that the ability to put an open-field runner on the turf is almost as important as any skill in a kicker’s tool box.
The NFL has seldom seen a kicker or punter with the types of tackling skills the 25-year-old McAfee posses. At 6’1, 220, I’m convinced he could play somewhere on the defensive side of the ball if he so desired. The athletic kicker was one of the few bright spots on last year’s team and has saved a handful of touchdowns when the Colts kick coverage broke down this year.
But tackles isn’t a statistic that shows up on a kicker or punter’s stat sheet. So when fans, coaches and players vote for the Pro Bowl roster—many either without having seen that player play or with limited exposure to him, kick coverage and tackling ability isn’t something they consider. You have to actually see McAfee play to realize how valuable he is.
So I guess he’ll continue to be our little secret. And the Colts secret weapon should kick coverage break down.