Hello, and welcome to sunny Florida, home of endless orange groves, copious amusement parks and very, very average pro football players.
That's the logical conclusion one would draw after Tuesday's announcement of the 2008 Pro Bowl rosters, which included a grand total of zero players from the Jaguars and Buccaneers.
A closer look at the numbers: 11 Cowboys; eight Patriots and Chargers; seven Vikings; five Colts, Steelers and Seahawks. Two Chiefs, a Raider, a Raven, a Niner, a Ram … and a partridge in a pear tree.
Yet the big bagel for the Jags and Bucs, two playoff-bound teams with a combined 19-9 record.
Look, I know Pro Bowl voting is kind of a joke, the NFL's answer to the butterfly ballot (oops, sorry to dredge up that Florida memory). For one thing, it wraps up well before the end of the regular season, meaning that deserving players like Jags quarterback David Garrard and halfback Fred Taylor aren't helped by pivotal efforts like the ones they provided in Jacksonville's 29-22 victory at Pittsburgh Sunday.
The Pro Bowl has always been somewhat of a popularity contest, rather than a legitimate all-star coronation, with players and coaches voting in blocs and sometimes giving little thought to their choices. Fan balloting was added in 1995, exacerbating a tendency to select players based on reputation and past deeds at the expense of current excellence.
"That Pro Bowl thing, personally I think it gets kind of political," Jags defensive end Paul Spicer said from the visitors' locker room at Heinz Field Sunday. "Once a guy makes it, it seems like he can do a half-assed job and then make it again. And that's not where it should be. I think the coaches and the NFL should take a good, hard look at it."
I'm not one of those people who whines about so-and-so missing out on the Pro Bowl without acknowledging that it's a zero-sum complaint. So, with apologies to some of the players selected, here are the Jags and Bucs who can complain about having been snubbed, and (when applicable) the men they should have replaced:
• Garrard, who has a 16-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 101.6 passer rating for a 10-4 team, should have made it over the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (29-11, 100.5, 9-5).
• Taylor, who has 1,091 yards, a 5.1 yard-per-carry average and the two longest touchdown runs in the AFC this season, should have been picked instead of the Colts' Joseph Addai (1,019, 4.1).
• Fullback Greg Jones, the first alternate, will likely go to Hawaii, because starter Lorenzo Neal broke his leg and is out for the season. Cornerback Rashean Mathis and Taylor are also first alternates, while Henderson and injured linebacker Mike Peterson are second alternates. Garrard is at best a third alternate, presumably behind Derek Anderson and Carson Palmer.
• Cornerback Ronde Barber, who made the three previous Pro Bowls (and four overall), has been a big-play machine this season and should have been selected ahead of Seattle's Marcus Trufant, though the Packers' Charles Woodson also has reason to feel slighted.
• Wideout Joey Galloway, with eight receptions of 40-plus yards (tied with Randy Moss for the NFL lead), should have made it over the Packers' Donald Driver or the Rams' Torry Holt – though the Giants' Plaxico Burress, the Packers' Greg Jennings and the Saints' Marques Colston could also make cases.
• Outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, who had made the last 10 Pro Bowls, was beaten out by the Cowboys' DaMarcus Ware (legit), the Seahawks' Julian Peterson (somewhat dubious) and the Bears' Lance Briggs (mostly legit).
Chances are, the Jags and Bucs will now channel their collective disappointment into no-one-believes-in-us fury, the way the similarly shut out 2002 Titans did all the way to the AFC Championship game.
That's about all these proud players can do; they can't go to the U.S. Supreme Court and ask for a recount, because we know how that would turn out.
Besides, it's not like the Sunshine State got completely shafted. One Florida-based player will be heading to Hawaii, and that's defensive end Jason Taylor – of the 1-13 Dolphins, who you'll find in their customary spot of our top-to-bottom rundown:
1. New England Patriots: A little chilly there, boys?
2. Indianapolis Colts: Has a 12-2 defending champion ever been so written off?
4. Green Bay Packers: If it weren't for Randy Moss, would Greg Jennings be the league's preeminent deep threat?
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: If this team got to compete in the NFC playoffs, could it reach the Super Bowl?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: Did they peak too early?
8. San Diego Chargers: Can this team win a playoff game at Indy (without help from the missed field goal gods)?
9. Tennessee Titans: Are they destined to be the NFL's equivalent of NIT champions?
10. Cleveland Browns: Even in a snowstorm, did you ever imagine this team could shut out anyone ?
14. Houston Texans: With a last-place schedule in '08, will they be a trendy playoff pick?
15. Washington Redskins: Can you believe how much heart these guys have, and will it be enough to get them into the playoffs?
16. Buffalo Bills: On fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, is it a wise decision to throw underneath?
17. New Orleans Saints: Reggie who?
18. Philadelphia Eagles: Hypothetically, if Brian Westbrook from last Sunday met up with Mike Holmgren's Green Bay defense from the final minutes of Super Bowl XXXII, would his breakaway dash to the end zone ever end?
21. Chicago Bears: More than a year later, can we now conclude that they are who Denny Green thought they were?
22. Carolina Panthers: Is John Fox's job any safer after beating the Seahawks, and is he stressed out that Marty Schottenheimer lives in the neighborhood?
23. Detroit Lions: Is it fair to say the lions at the San Diego Zoo were more ferocious last Sunday?
24. Oakland Raiders: Does Lane Kiffin want the West Virginia job?
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Hey guys – do you think you can hold the Browns under 50 this time?
27. Baltimore Ravens: Now don't you guys feel special?
28. St. Louis Rams: Will this team have four new starting offensive linemen in '08?
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Hey, Carl Peterson – when you walk into Gates Barbecue, does the woman behind the counter scream "Hi, may I help you?" with a little more urgency than usual?
32. Miami Dolphins: Can they pull an Appalachian State?