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The AP’s All-Pro Voting Process Is a Joke

In early January, the Associated Press announced its All-Pro team. The voting process is pretty simple: 50 voters select their top players at each position, and a first-team All-Pro squad is announced.  The runners-up at each position are placed on the second-team, but that leads to some very odd results. If fans, teams, and Hall of Fame voters are going to put weight on a player being considered a 2nd-team All-Pro, then the voters should actually vote for both a first and second team. Simply naming the second vote getter (or third and fourth vote getters at positions with two starters) as the second-team All-Pro(s) invites significant abuses of the system.

Let’s take a look at the detailed voting breakdown.  I’ve bolded the first-team All-Pro(s) at each position, and italicized the second-team “choices.”

Quarterback

Peyton Manning, Denver, 50.

This one’s pretty easy.

Running Back

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia, 48; Jamaal Charles, Kansas City, 47; Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 1; Eddie Lacy, Green Bay, 1.

Did you hear that Eddie Lacy was a second-team All-Pro choice in 2013? That’s because one voter — presumably one in Wisconsin — decided that Lacy was better than McCoy or Charles in 2013. And that’s it. Is Lacy, or for that matter, Peterson, a more-deserving choice as a 2nd-team All-Pro than Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Knowshon Moreno, or DeMarco Murray? Who knows — and that’s the point. The 2nd-team All-Pro honors going to Peterson and Lacy are essentially meaningless pieces of information. All we know is that 1 voter out of 50 decided that those two were top-2 running backs in 2013. Gregg Rosenthal noted that it was a shame that Forte was passed over for 2nd-team honors, and I agree with that sentiment. But Forte wasn’t passed over in the literal sense: had the 50 voters actually selected a second-team pair of running backs, I suspect Forte would have been chosen.

It’s also worth noting that it appears as though 3 voters selected only one running back. Brilliant.

Fullback

Mike Tolbert, Carolina, 31; Marcel Reece, Oakland, 8; Anthony Sherman, Kansas City, 5; Bruce Miller, San Francisco, 4; John Kuhn, Green Bay, 1.

Anyone want to offer me 49:1 odds that the AP voter who selected Kuhn also selected Lacy?

Tight End

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans, 49; Vernon Davis, San Francisco, 1.

Vernon Davis was a 2nd-team All-Pro in 2013 because…. 2% of all voters thought Davis was better than Jimmy Graham. Graham should have been a unanimous pick, but we all know what happened here: some voter decided that he wanted Davis to get some love, and figured he could ensure such accolades by placing Davis on the 2nd team by casting just one vote for him. I love Davis, and think he’s probably an underrated player nationally, but how can anyone give any credibility to this “accomplishment”?

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit, 42; Josh Gordon, Cleveland, 28; A.J. Green, Cincinnati, 12; Demaryius Thomas, Denver, 6; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 6; Brandon Marshall, Chicago, 5; Alshon Jeffery, Chicago, 1.

It’s safe to say that Jeffery cost Marshall the one vote he needed to be the, uh, 4th wide receiver named 2nd-team All-Pro. And it’s still pretty silly to determine who the 4th best receiver in the NFL is based on the fact that 12% of voters thought the receiver was one of the top two in the league.

Tackles

Joe Thomas, Cleveland, 28; Jason Peters, Philadelphia, 25; Joe Staley, San Francisco, 16; Tyron Smith, Dallas, 14; Zach Strief, New Orleans, 4; Orlando Franklin, Denver, 3; Jordan Gross, Carolina, 2; Gosder Cherilus, Indianapolis, 1; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 1; Jermaine Bushrod, Chicago, 1; Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay, 1; Trent Williams, Washington, 1; Branden Albert, Kansas City, 1; Jake Long, St. Louis, 1; Phil Loadholt, Minnesota, 1.

Well, at least there were some pretty decent gaps between the first-team and second-team selections, and between the second-team selections and the “others receiving votes.” That’s not the case at the next position.

Guards

Louis Vasquez, Denver, 22; Evan Mathis, Philadelphia, 18; Jahri Evans, New Orleans, 14; Josh Sitton, Green Bay, 13; Mike Iupati, San Francisco, 12; Logan Mankins, New England, 12; Larry Warford, Detroit, 3; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 3; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 1; Andy Levitre, Tennessee, 1.

Evans, Sitton, and Mankins were actually announced as the second-team selections, which means either (1) Mankins actually received 13 votes (the total number of votes only adds up to 99), or (2) Mankins should not have been named a 2nd-team choice. An e-mail to the Associated Press was not returned. In any event, is there any meaningful difference between Iupati and Evans/Sitton/Mankins? Ideally, you would send out the ballot, and after Vasquez and Mathis were picked for the first team, the ballot would be re-sent with the question “pick the two best guards other than Vasquez and Mathis.” At that point, we might be able to trust who the second-team guards actually were.

Center

Ryan Kalil, Carolina, 26; Alex Mack, Cleveland, 9; Jason Kelce, Philadelphia, 4; Max Unger, Seattle, 4; Manny Ramirez, Denver, 2; John Sullivan, Minnesota, 2; Mike Pouncey, Miami, 1; Dominic Raiola, Detroit, 1; Nick Hardwick, San Diego, 1.

No place is it safer to file your homer votes than on the interior line.

Placekicker

Justin Tucker, Baltimore, 38; Matt Prater, Denver, 7; Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 3; Steven Hauschka, Seattle, 1; Phil Dawson, San Francisco, 1.

Tucker was a great selection, but Prater? We can chalk this one up to Mile High bias, though, and not a flaw in the process.

Kick Returner

Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota, 36; Dexter McCluster, Kansas City, 8; Dwayne Harris, Dallas, 2; Devin Hester, Chicago, 2; Trindon Holliday, Denver, 1; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 1.

I suppose we are to assume that the category is mislabeled? McCluster and Brown combined for 19 kickoff return yards in 2013. So do their 9 votes represent protest votes or a failure to understand the rules vote? Both were great punt returners this year, but that’s not what the category is labeled. Please, I urge you: take a second and process that Dexter McCluster, who returned one kick for 3 yards in 2013, was chosen as the second-team kick returner by the most revered voters in football.

Defensive Ends

Robert Quinn, St. Louis, 46; J.J. Watt, Houston, 28; Greg Hardy, Carolina, 14; Mario Williams, Buffalo, 5; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, 1; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans, 1; Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati, 1; Charles Johnson, Carolina, 1; Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 1; Chandler Jones, New England, 1.

Defensive Tackles

Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, 28; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, 19; Dontari Poe, Kansas City, 13; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 8; Jurrell Casey, Tennessee, 8; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, 8; Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 6; J.J. Watt, Houston, 3; Jason Hatcher, Dallas, 3; Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets, 2; Brandon Mebane, Seattle, 1; Marcell Dareus, Buffalo, 1.

Let’s take these two groups together. Watt received 28 votes at defensive end and 3 at defensive tackle. Buffalo’s Kyle Williams was two votes shy of being a “second-team” choice at guard. We know at least one person considered him an end — how many others did? Wilkerson was in the same boat. He’s played as a 3-4 defensive end his entire career, so how comes 8 people chose him as an All-Pro at tackle and just 1 at end? I have no problem if voters think 3-4 ends should be treated as interior defensive linemen, but then every voter needs to do that. To not have a uniform categorization of defensive linemen throws the entire results into question.

Had all voters labeled Wilkerson an end, he probably gets the second-team nod over Mario Williams, which might have been enough to vault Buffalo’s other Williams into the second-team position at tackle. How does this make any sense? And yet, somehow, this is even less embarrassing than what happened at linebacker.

Outside Linebackers

Robert Mathis, Indianapolis, 49; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay, 22; Tamba Hali, Kansas City, 10; Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco, 5; Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati, 4; Justin Houston, Kansas City, 4; Terrell Suggs, Baltimore, 3; John Abraham, Arizona, 2; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1.

Inside Linebacker

Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 45; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco, 39; Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati, 7; Karlos Dansby, Arizona, 4; Patrick Willis, San Francisco, 2; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, 2; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1.

In case you can’t tell, the positions are labeled “Outside Linebackers” and “Inside Linebackers”. I repeat, we have one category for “Outside Linebackers” and one category for “Inside Linebackers.” These categories are NOT labeled “Pass Rushers” and “Tacklers.”  Vontaze Burfict led the NFL in tackles and was a “second-team All-Pro” at inside linebacker. But Burfict is an outside linebacker. Rey Maualuga plays on the inside in Cincinnati, and Vincent Rey replaced him when Maualuga was injured. According to Pro Football Focus, Burfict spent 306 snaps as an inside linebacker, 18 snaps deep, 22 covering the slot or lined up out wide, and roughly 700 snaps as an outside linebacker. Ahmad Brooks can thank the ignorance of voters for his second-team All-Pro “selection” at outside linebacker.1

We can confirm that 45 people know who plays middle linebacker in Carolina… but we can also confirm that at least one voter does not. Thomas Davis had a great year at outside linebacker but is not a sack artist, which means he gets a vote as an inside linebacker, I guess.

Cornerbacks

Richard Sherman, Seattle, 48; Patrick Peterson, Arizona, 28; Aqib Talib, New England, 8; Alterraun Verner, Tennessee, 6; Joe Haden, Cleveland, 6; Brent Grimes, Miami, 4.

There were 24 votes not cast for either Sherman or Peterson. Those were split pretty evenly among Talib/Verner/Haden/Grimes, but the Dolphin was left out in the cold because of the process. The AP voting field has a decidedly ESPN presence, which may explain how Talib received so many votes. He had a fine year, but I’d say he was the worst of the six.

Safeties

Earl Thomas, Seattle, 47; Eric Berry, Kansas City, 32; Eric Weddle, San Diego, 10; Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, 2; T.J. Ward, Cleveland, 2; Devin McCourty, New England, 2; Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, 2; Kam Chancellor, Seattle, 2; Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona, 1.

Do I even need to say anything? Eight different safeties were selected as second-team All-Pros using this process.

Punter

Johnny Hekker, St. Louis, 23; Brandon Fields, Miami, 20; Shane Lechler, Houston, 3; Jon Ryan, Seattle, 2; Bryan Anger, Jacksonville, 1; Andy Lee, San Francisco, 1.

Hekker led the league in net punting average, and Fields was just a tenth of a yard behind Oakland’s Marquette King (who had 2 punts blocked) for the lead in gross punting average. Presumably, that’s about as much thought went into this process.

  1. To be fair to the Associated Press, the Pro Football Writers Association made the exact same mistake. []
{ 39 comments }
  • will February 12, 2014, 12:09 am

    I agree in how completely absurd the system is after having just glanced at it once. To do an in depth analysis of how nonsensical it is makes you wonder what writers groups were thinking when instituting this system.

    Reply
  • Wade Iuele February 12, 2014, 1:36 am

    Are these awards used for anything? Contract negotiation? Hall of fame consideration? I hope not. Where can I find a list of who the 50 voters are?

    Reply
    • Richie February 12, 2014, 3:29 pm

      I assume they are used in the HOF voting. I know fans use these things to argue about HOF qualifications.

      And All Pro is used as a factor in calculating Approximate value.

      Reply
    • Bob February 12, 2014, 11:10 pm

      According to the CBA, the following awards can be used for contract incentives:

      Pro Bowl
      All NFL (First and Second Team)
      All Conference (First and Second Team)
      Superb Owl MVP (Rozelle Trophy)
      NFL MVP
      Offensive Player of the Year – NFL or conference
      Defensive Player of the Year – NFL or conference
      Player of the Year – NFL or conference

      The following media outlets are counted for the awards above:

      Associated Press
      Pro Football Weekly
      Pro Football Writers of America
      Sporting News
      Sports Illustrated

      Reply
  • Bob February 12, 2014, 2:34 am

    It’s an awful system.

    2012: Justin Smith makes 2nd team at DE and 1st team at DT.

    Ends

    Jared Allen, Minnesota, 49; Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants, 34; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 9; Jason Babin, Philadelphia, 7; Elvis Dumervil, Denver, 1.

    Tackles

    Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, 38; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 35; Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, 9; Richard Seymour, Oakland, 5; Vince Wilfork, New England, 5; B.J. Raji, Green Bay, 1; Calais Campbell, Arizona, 1; Henry Melton, Chicago, 1; Mike Patterson, Philadelphia, 1; Sione Pouha, New York Jets, 1; Jay Ratliff, Dallas, 1; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, 1; J.J. Watt, Houston, 1.

    The truly sad part about this voting process is that some AP members continue to attempt to justify its use. Mike Florio wrote about this at the end of 2011:

    So I asked Barry Wilner of the Associated Press for an explanation of the decision not to use a Heisman-style first-place, second-place, and third-place voting system, or a similar procedure that allows voters to list more names other than the winner.

    “We don’t want an MVP who doesn’t get the most first choices, so we use a better system that guarantees the player with majority of first-place votes wins,” Wilner said via email. “We are looking for THE guy for each award.”

    It’s a fair explanation, but I’m not sure it’s realistic to think that the guy who gets a majority of first-place votes (or even a plurality) won’t win. (One way to address the concern would be to add extra weight to a first-place vote.)

    And so I continue to believe that the current system is flawed. Though Rodgers likely deserves to win the MVP in 2011, Brees and/or Brady deserve the final outcome to be closer than 45-5, a 9-1 ratio.

    Then there’s the reality that one of the 50 voters can be counted on to do something goofy and/or bizarre, like voting for Keith Rivers to be the defensive rookie of the year despite missing nine games or voting for LeGarrette Blount to be the comeback player of the year . . . as a rookie.

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/12/28/ap-explains-voting-process-for-nfl-awards/

    Reply
  • Sunrise089 February 12, 2014, 4:05 am

    Good article. I don’t mind the system for first team all pros too much, but I definitely think if they go that route they need to add another round where everyone whose selections were awarded first team honors pick a new selectee for the second team round.

    Your point about edge rushers versus interior linemen versus standard linebackers reminded me of the PFRWP twitter draft which is using that format. Can we expect a post on your draft picks this year?

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart February 12, 2014, 11:07 am

      Thanks, Sunrise. And yes, I’ll be creating a recap at some point.

      Reply
  • Pablo February 12, 2014, 7:37 am

    Interesting stuff. I never realized how stupid the process was. Good to know i can pay less attention to it.

    One quick typo: the word selection is spelled section in the inside linebackers paragraph.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart February 12, 2014, 11:07 am

      Thanks, Pablo. And fixed.

      Reply
  • Andre Perrotta February 12, 2014, 9:14 am

    @Wade,

    Yes, AP All-Pro recognition (both 1st & 2nd Team) is one of a handful of incentives that can be included in a player’s contract under the rules of the CBA. The CBA specifically limits individual incentive “honors” to those listed in the CBA [see Article 13, Sec. 6(c)]. Because of the importance the CBA places on this (and other) incentive “honors”, the process should reflect that.

    This “process” is beyond ridiculous. Thanks for shedding light on this complete silliness, Chase.

    Reply
  • brandt February 12, 2014, 10:06 am

    Im confused as to why you feel Matt Prater doesn’t deserve 2nd team kicker honors, after having nailed a 64 yard fg and being a damn good kicker.

    -cowboys fan

    Reply
    • Shattenjager February 12, 2014, 12:47 pm

      I’m not Chase, so this isn’t speaking for him, but I suggest starting here: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamst

      Prater was a valuable FG kicker who gave back all of that value and more on kickoffs, and poor kickoffs have been a trend through most of his career in Denver. The altitude often covers up his weaknesses at home (and notice where he made that record length FG).

      And look at New England’s numbers on that page. Gostkowski was MUCH better than Prater.

      Reply
  • JeremyDe February 12, 2014, 12:42 pm

    I understand time, effort, money, and laziness are probably the reasons for why the system exists as it does…the questions that come to my mind are….

    1.Why can’t the Associated Press send out a Pro Bowl-type ballot with players listed at their actual positions? Obviously they are sending out a blank form currently, if people can write players into multiple positions.
    2.Even better, why can’t they send out a Pro Bowl-type ballot with some stats/information so the voters can attempt to make an informed choice, as opposed to forcing the voters to hunt down their own information.
    3.And if they really wanted to clean this up, and make it easier, why not install an instant-runoff voting system where the voters could vote for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd team All-Pro’s, making the process more direct, and less complicated, while honoring the top 3% of the league, considering each player is competing with (hypothetically) 80-100 players for this ‘honor’.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting <–if anyone doesn't know what runoff, or alternative, voting is

    Also, I counted 3 missing RB, 1 missing FB, 1 missing G, and 1 missing DE vote. Is that normal to have missing votes?

    Reply
    • Richie February 12, 2014, 3:36 pm

      3.And if they really wanted to clean this up, and make it easier, why not install an instant-runoff voting system where the voters could vote for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd team All-Pro’s, making the process more direct, and less complicated, while honoring the top 3% of the league, considering each player is competing with (hypothetically) 80-100 players for this ‘honor’.

      If only there were some way for one person to quickly send out information to a large number of people, and have them return it equally as fast. If only. This process could take weeks by mail. Can anybody think of a faster way? No? OK, we’ll just skip it then.

      Reply
      • JeremyDe February 12, 2014, 4:23 pm

        “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.”

        Reply
  • Richie February 12, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Does this mean there was no 2nd team All-Pro QB for 2013?

    take a second and process that Dexter McCluster,

    Reminds me of Rafael Palmeiro’s gold glove the year he was primarily a DH.

    Reply
    • James February 12, 2014, 4:20 pm

      Correct. Same thing in 2011 when Brady and his 4 interceptions was unanimous, but NOT 2007 because one random person voted for Favre.

      Reply
  • James February 12, 2014, 4:10 pm

    So how would we fix it? Seems like there are two primary problems: (1) How to handle second team All Pro, and (2) What positions do players play?

    Second team All Pro: Some ideas are do away with it completely, make a ranked ballot where you vote on 1-5 or 1-10 depending on the position, have people vote for 1st place, then revote once the 1st place team is selected. Others?

    What positions do players play? The AP could unilaterally define all players at a certain position before voting starts, combine a players total votes into whichever position got the most (e.g. Watt’s 3 votes at DT add to his 28 votes at DE), throw out votes for players at the wrong/fewer votes position, change the positions to interior linemen, exterior/pass rush defenders, and tacklers. And all of that still ignores if they’re supposed to vote for one right and left tackle versus two left tackles, etc.

    One of my personal favorites is to have voters vote for a 4-3 team and a 3-4 team, and then either do away with the first team and second team designations, or take the top 7 overall vote earners. If you’re worried about ending up with 5 interior linemen and 2 inside linebackers on 1st team, then you can say make limits on positions.

    Reply
    • James February 12, 2014, 4:17 pm

      Of course, there’s a more fundamental problem with All-Pros: The current All-Pro positions make no sense. Did anyone notice there are TWELVE 1st team All Pros on defense??? 2 each at DT, DE, OLB, ILB, CB, and S. Apparently the AP’s solution to the 3-4/4-3 conundrum is to play a 4-4! And really, who thinks it’s a good idea that we give out All Pro awards to a fullback AND two runningbacks? One FB or two RBs and I wouldn’t complain too much, but essentially NO ONE uses full house formations anymore, and even those that do (49ers, occassionally Packers) have a TE as one of the three. And I wish I could find an updated version (see link at end), but even in 2011 teams were playing in the nickel on 40% of their snaps compared to 45% in the 3-4/4-3, so it’s about time we started voting for slot receivers and corners since they’ll be playing the most snaps soon. And they’re already on the field way more than fullbacks!

      Since we already have 12 first team players, why not go big and give out 13+ first team slots to more accurately represent the different positions teams use? It’s not like this is the Pro Bowl and we actually have to put the “starters” all on the field at the same time. Let’s say 5 OLine, 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 FB, 2 TEs, and 3 WRs, plus 2 DT, 2 DEs, 2 OLBs, 2 ILBs, 3 CBs, 2 Ss. I know that’s 14 and 13 players, but it’s not even now! If that worries you we can have a wild card defensive first team position, and we can go ahead and require 3rd receivers and corners actually play in the slot, plus right/left limitations.

      If you want to keep it at 11, then how about the AP limits first teams based upon the 11 positions with the most snaps played? This data is already fairly available, and if anyone should have access to it it should be the 50 best football writers, right? That would also leave the most flexibility in case the NFL suddenly veered back to 46 defenses, or everyone starts running 1-4-6 defenses to combat the offense going with 3 WRs, 2 TEs, and a running QB.

      http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/04/11/fantasy-defensive-personnel-packages-%E2%80%93-part-1/

      Reply
  • jmac34 February 12, 2014, 4:25 pm

    Neither Lacey or Kuhn were picked by Tom Silverstein a.k.a the Wisconsin voter so your assumption that it was a Wisconsin bias is incorrect.

    Reply
  • JWL February 12, 2014, 6:16 pm

    When was the last time a right tackle was named first team all-pro? Pretty much every year left tackles get both tackle spots.

    Reply
  • Tim Truemper February 13, 2014, 10:11 am

    Does the current AP system still influence the AV ratings used by PFR?

    Reply
    • James February 13, 2014, 11:05 am

      Only first team All Pro selections are now factored into AV.

      Reply
  • Kibbles February 13, 2014, 11:15 am

    Also notice how Jim Miller, who believes that Tom Brady was better player than Peyton Manning this year, apparently believes that Peyton Manning was a better quarterback than Tom Brady this year. At least the irrational 2007 Favre voter who screwed Brady out of his unanimous MVP was internally consistent enough to screw him out of unanimous 1st team AP All Pro status, too.

    Reply
  • Kibbles February 14, 2014, 2:25 am

    One thing, though, is that I have no problem with punt returners being named All Pros. To me, “kick returner” is a distinct thing from “kickoff returner”. Someone who returns kickoffs is a kickoff returner. Someone who returns punts is a punt returner. Both guys are “kick returners”, or just “returners”. After all, a punt is a kick too, no? I mean, the foot strikes the ball and provides the impetus for its flight downfield. That’s a kick. The guy who fields it is returning that kick. He’s a kick returner.

    Reply
    • James February 14, 2014, 11:05 am

      According to the NFL: No, kicks and punts are categorically different. That’s why we have “punters” and “placekickers” instead of just “kickers”.

      Reply
      • Kibbles February 14, 2014, 1:39 pm

        Isn’t the fact that they’re officially called “placekickers” evidence in favor of my interpretation? We don’t have punters and kickers, we have punters and placekickers, both of which fall under the larger “kicker” subcategory. If the All Pro team had a “Pass Rusher” slot, I would be fine with 3-4 OLBs and 4-3 DEs both competing against each other for election, provided they were both being included for their work rushing the passer. If the All Pro team had a “pass catchers” position, then I would think it only fair for Jimmy Graham to compete head-to-head against Josh Gordon for the honor, provided both are being considered on their merit catching passes. Similarly, if there was a “kick returner” category, then I think it should be a blanket category that includes anyone based solely on their merit returning kicks, whether punts or kickoffs.

        In fact, the NFL site has an entire page devoted to the rules on “kicks from scrimmage”. When there’s a penalty on a team that is performing a punt, the officials assess that penalty to the “kicking team”. If a defender contacts the punter while he’s defenseless, it’s a penalty for “roughing the kicker”. When a team faces 4th down against the Bears, it prompts a discussion of whether they want to “kick to Devin Hester”. If a team punts in a situation where the other team is not expecting it, it’s a “quick kick”. The very definition of the word “kick” is “to strike or propel forcibly with the foot”. It seems bizarre to me to suggest that punts should not be considered kicks when selecting an All Pro team despite the fact that the rules of football, common sense, and the English language all say they are considered kicks in all other circumstances.

        Reply
        • Chase Stuart February 14, 2014, 2:11 pm

          The real issue is that due to this ambiguity, we can be sure that some voters are unclear are what exactly they’re supposed to be voting for.

          Reply
        • James February 14, 2014, 2:31 pm

          Okay, you’re making some good points.

          While I agree that “kicking” includes punting when talking about things like “quick kick” and “kicking to Hester”, I think we are confusing colloquial usage and technical usage. But your larger point that the NFL uses kick both as a primary category name (kicks from scrimmage include punts & kickoffs) AND a sub-category name (kickoffs only) is a good one, and I see why you’d therefore say the meaning of “kick returner” is unclear/inclusive.

          If the term “kick returner” included “kickoff returner” and “punt returner”, then I’d agree with you. But NO ONE uses the term “kickoff returner”, so “kick returner” must use the subcategory defintion of kick to only mean kickoffs. This is particularly evident because the AP doesn’t use a combined position anywhere else; there is no ‘pass rusher’ or ‘defensive back’ category, so why is there a combined kickoff & punt returner category, especially when the NFL treats them as separate positions by having different players handle kickoff and punts? I think the real problem here is the AP is missing a punt returner position, not that kick returner should be expected to cover both.

          Reply
          • Kibbles February 14, 2014, 2:51 pm

            People don’t use “kickoff returner” because people are fond of abbreviating (doesn’t get much shorter than “punt”!) and rarely find themselves in a situation where precision is important. I play in fantasy leagues that reward return yards; you can bet your ass I distinguish between “punt returners” and “kickoff returners”. I also help assemble returner depth charts for a fantasy football website, so I spend a lot of time during training camps watching press conferences from coaches. I can tell you that if I see a coach say “X will be returning kicks for us”, that means something different than if I see him say “X will be returning kickoffs”. If a coach talks about his “kickers”, he’s talking about his placekicker and his punter. If a coach is talking about his “kick returners”, he’s talking about his kickoff returner and his punt returner. Everyone gets sloppy and there is a lot of ambiguity, but all three phrases exist as distinct things.

            Also, the AP certainly does use combined positions. “Tackles” combines right tackles and left tackles. “Defensive tackles” includes all NTs, 3-techs, and often even 5-techs (3-4 DEs). “Wide Receivers” includes players in the slot, such as Wes Welker, and players lined up outside, such as Vincent Jackson. I would argue that the duties of a kickoff returner and a punt returner are probably more similar than the duties of a 0-tech defensive tackle like Casey Hampton and a 3-tech like Warren Sapp.

            With that said, I am always in favor of any move toward more clarity. I am ambivalent towards the idea of recognizing separate kickoff and punt returners, though. Personally, I like how hard it is for a returner to earn 1st team AP All Pro honors in any given year. Given the short peaks, small sample sizes, and random variance from year to year, the list of guys who have earned multiple All Pro nods as a returner is pretty much the “who’s who” of NFL returners.

            Reply
        • James February 14, 2014, 2:47 pm

          To belabor the point:

          Out of the 32 players with the most punt returns (15+), 16 of them had fewer than 3 kickoff returns.
          Out of the 32 players with the most kick returns (13+), 15 of them had a combined 1 punt return.

          So if about half of NFL teams treat punt returners and kickoff returners as different positions, why should we give out a combined award? And if we are going to give out a combined award, how could be possibly give it to a player that only returned one of the two types of kicks, which applies to both Patterson and McCluster?

          Reply
  • mrh February 17, 2014, 1:59 pm

    Tight end votes: maybe the Davis voter thinks Graham is really a WR. Anyone with access to PFF Premium: who is the best 2013 TE with 50+% of snaps as an in-line TE?

    Reply
  • Brad Oremland March 12, 2014, 1:55 am

    Very nice work, Chase.

    A related post addressing some of Chase’s points, and the comments discussion about returners, can be found at the link in my name.

    Reply

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