Charlie Sanders was quite a player back in the day. (Getty Images)There haven't been many Detroit Lions quarterbacks in the Pro Bowl over the years, but according to former Lions tight end and current assistant director of pro personnel Charlie Sanders, that should have changed after the 2011 season. At a function this week to induct ex-Lions quarterback Greg Landry into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, Sanders -- who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and made seven Pro Bowls during a career that went from 1968 through 1977 -- thought it was a bit ridiculous that current Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was just a third alternate in the 2012 Pro Bowl, despite throwing for over 5,000 yards, leading the league in attempts with 663, and throwing 41 touchdown passes to just 16 picks in the regular season.
Then again, Sanders doesn't think much of the Pro Bowl these days, anyway. Add his name to the ever-increasing list of people who believe the event should be stricken from the NFL's schedule.
"I think they're going to eliminate it, they're going to cut it out, because it's turned into a disgrace, to be honest with you," Sanders told the Detroit Free Press on Thursday. "It doesn't represent football. It's more of a mockery of the game. I think that if that's the way they're going to go about handling such a prestigious honor, then I think they need to eliminate it."
Landry, who did make a Pro Bowl in 1971, agreed that Stafford's low standing was a bit nonsensical. "I told him I hoped someone would get hurt so that he could play in the game," Landry said. "And then he told me he was down the line, he was like fifth or sixth. And I'm shaking my head saying how could five people [be ahead of a guy who threw] for over 5,000 yards? It just didn't make sense."
Then again, it ain't about Pro Bowls -- it's about Super Bowls. The Lions aren't there quite yet, but if the talented players on this young team can keep their heads together (and the jury's still out on that, literally and figuratively), there could be great things in Detroit's future.
Asked about his quarterback after the January wild-card playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints (Detroit's first playoff appearance since 1999), Lions head coach Jim Schwartz didn't seem to care about any stinkin' Pro Bowl -- he knows that as long as Stafford stays healthy, he's playing with house money at that position for a number of years.
"Yeah he's only 23 [Stafford turned 24 on Feb. 7], so I think we got more than a decade," Schwartz said on Jan. 9. "I think we can take him past 33, maybe at that point it will be somebody else worrying about him other than me, because I'm older than he is. I don't know if I'll last as long as he does.
"Obviously there's a reason that we drafted him and there's a reason that we stood behind him. You know, I think that ... I don't want to say we're just scratching the surface, because it's hard to say that when you throw for 5,000 yards, but it's only the beginning. It's only beginning for this team, it's only beginning for our offense, it's only beginning for Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and everybody else, but I think that the big thing is…You look at everything that he's done, probably this year included, but even going back to his rookie year, nothing was ever too big for him.
"Going to the playoffs, and starting, being injured—all those different things. You know, he was up to all of it and I think that's tremendously ... comforting's a bad word — but it's a good feeling as we move forward."
And that's true, Pro Bowls or not.