Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley is a solid backup and is well liked by his teammates and coaches.
But there’s no credible argument for him being a Pro Bowl quarterback other than farcical voting making him the AFC’s fourth alternate and multiple quarterbacks backing out of the event. Of course, there’s been no shortage of questionable Pro Bowl selections over the years, but no justification can be made for someone who started only four games and had only three touchdowns in place of injured starter Lamar Jackson during the 2022 regular season.
To be perfectly clear, this isn’t any fault of Huntley, who will turn 25 later this week and has the right to go enjoy himself in Las Vegas on the NFL’s dime. But many hoped the overdue elimination of the actual Pro Bowl game itself — replaced by flag football games and skills competitions this year — would halt the growing “participation trophy” vibe the honor began carrying with more and more players backing out in recent years.
Why do we still need alternates when a “real” game — or whatever we want to call the abomination it had become in recent years — is no longer being played? If any original Pro Bowl starters or reserves are unable to attend and some extra bodies are needed, why not replace them with notable retired players interested in competing?
There will always be some questionable selections and snubs in the voting process, which is the nature of subjectivity. Former Ravens great Haloti Ngata made the Pro Bowl from 2009-13 with recognition arriving a couple years late and probably continuing a season or two too long if we’re being honest, but the end result of five Pro Bowl nods probably balanced out appropriately. You’ll never convince me that former Baltimore defensive end Rob Burnett didn’t deserve to make the Pro Bowl for his terrific 2000 season, but I can also name some Pro Bowl Ravens who probably didn’t deserve the honor over the years.
Say what you want about the exhibition game itself, but the voting and the distinction are still important considering the Pro Bowl remains one of the first factoids cited when discussing contract details, legacies, and even Hall of Fame credentials. And while many rightly argue the more exclusive All-Pro honors and other advanced stats should carry more clout, Baltimore fans are still more likely to remember Ray Lewis made 13 Pro Bowls before his seven first-time All-Pro selections and three second-team All-Pro nods.
Huntley’s invitation is simply a more blatant example highlighting the need to clean up the voting system and, more importantly, differentiate between authentic Pro Bowl selections and alternate additions — past, present, and future. In a variety of sources ranging from Pro Football Reference to Wikipedia, a Pro Bowl alternate being invited to participate shouldn’t be viewed as a selection in the same way as someone voted to the original roster.
In other words, first-time Pro Bowl selection Roquan Smith and Huntley are not one and the same.
Yes, it’s easy to say this is no big deal since it’s an exhibition and everyone knows Huntley wasn’t actually a Pro Bowl-caliber player this season, but the history books won’t remember it that way if we maintain the status quo. In the same manner the NFL finally made changes after the Pro Bowl game itself became too big an embarrassment to continue, extending an invitation to a backup quarterback — even as the fourth alternate — who played and accomplished so little in 2022 should prompt adjustments to the voting process and how we recognize alternate additions moving forward.