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Thomas DeCoud And The Falcon Pro Bowl Conundrum

This is a post, ostensibly, about Dawson Devitt's post. It's a post about Thomas Decoud, and his chances to go to the Pro Bowl. But really, it's about something more than that.

This is about whether DeCoud would make the Pro Bowl even if he deserves to. He just might—but it may not be for the right reasons.

Let's tackle Devitt's point first. He argues that DeCoud needs to work on his coverage, but is clearly an up-and-coming free safety with a ton of potential. The use of some advanced metrics, like those used by the indispensible Football Outsiders, suggest that he's actually about as good against the run as he is against the pass (31% stop rate in each case), unlike someone like Erik Coleman who has meaty 49% stop rate against the run and a putrid 23% stop rate against the pass. You can also go with more traditional metrics, which suggest he was an above average free safety but not an excellent one.

But here's the problem with this argument, in its most basic form. With the exception of skill positions on offense and the occasional defensive end, the Pro Bowl vote doesn't hinge on the most talented player at a given position. It hinges on whether you have a winning team.

Let's take a hypothetical season from DeCoud, where he piles up 80 tackles, four sacks, four picks and improves his stop rate to about 40%. The Falcons go 6-10.

Another hypothetical season. DeCoud puts up his numbers from 2009 all over again, but it's his second year doing so and he now has some national exposure. The Falcons go 12-4.

Which version of DeCoud has the best chance to go to the Pro Bowl? If you're a cynical bastard like me, you already know the answer to that question. It's the one that happens to play on a good team. You need look no further than the 1998 Falcons versus their 1999 counterparts, when the Falcons sent six in their surprise Super Bowl year and zero the next. This despite the fact that a superficial look at Jessie Tuggle's stats gives you the impression that he was actually more productive in '99, when he amassed 72 tackles and 3.5 sacks to his 66 and 3 the season before.

Couple that with the fact that a large slice of the football-watching public and punditry—here I am looking very intently at Peter King—don't really pay all that much attention to the Falcons, and you've got a weird recipe here. We all know the Pro Bowl is basically a sham that is made even more shammy by the typical spate of injuries that knocks out half the roster, but it's a designation we all crave in some way. After all, good recognition is good recognition.

So I don't really know if projecting out Thomas DeCoud's stats in your drying tea leaves is the way to figure out if he's headed for Pro Bowl recognition. I firmly believe he's going to be a much improved player in 2010, but his fortunes may just depend on whether the Falcons can make the playoffs.

So let me ask you, dear readers, your thoughts on Mr. DeCoud and the Pro Bowl.