Update 11/18/2020: Patriots add J.C. Jackson to the Pro Bowl ballot after initially leaving him off the list
Just a few minutes after this story was originally published, the Patriots announced that they would add J.C. Jackson to the list of Pro Bowl nominees — a move that materialized shortly thereafter: the NFL’s interception leader is now on the ballot, while rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings has been removed to keep the number at 11.
If you want to vote for J.C. Jackson and the other Patriots on the ballot, please click here. Starting December 1, you can also vote on social media by using the hashtag #ProBowlVote plus a player’s first and last name (i.e. #ProBowlVote J.C. Jackson).
Original story 11/18/2020: Pro Bowl voting has started and the NFL’s interception leader is somehow not on the ballot
The United States is shaken to its core because of what appears to be a massive voter fraud scandal that is only now starting to make the news — a scandal so brazen it could undermine voters’ confidence in the system for years and maybe even generations to come. We are, of course, talking about the fact that J.C. Jackson is not on the 2021 Pro Bowl ballot that was released by the NFL on Tuesday.
Jackson certainly would have earned that recognition, though. Not only is he the current league leader in interceptions and has earned the distinction as one of the best cover cornerbacks in football, the 25-year-old also has carved out a starting role within the New England Patriots’ defense: Jackson has been on the field for 438 of a possible 537 snaps so far this season, second most on the team behind only safety Devin McCourty.
And yet, when the Pro Bowl ballot was released he was not among the 74 cornerbacks listed. Why? A Patriots spokesperson explained it as follows, according to Patriots Wire’s Henry McKenna:
We listed the two cornerbacks who have started the most games at cornerback and who have the longest tenure, Jason McCourty (9) and Stephon Gilmore (6). If we could list a third CB, we would have listed J.C. Jackson (4) or Jonathan Jones (6), but you [are] asked to list the 11 defensive starters.
While Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore has the most starts on their 2020 résumés, they are both behind Jackson: McCourty has played 396, with Gilmore being on the field for 365 before a knee injury forced him to miss the last three games. Even Jonathan Jones has seen more action than the two veterans, playing 436 defensive snaps through nine games.
And yet, the Patriots went with seniority over actual on-field action. They also decided to list their starting defense as rather standard 4-3-4 alignment on the Pro Bowl ballot — something other teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs or Dallas Cowboys, who each nominated three cornerbacks, did not do.
Besides Gilmore and McCourty, the Patriots have also listed Chase Winovich and Deatrich Wise Jr. at defensive end, Lawrence Guy and Byron Cowart at defensive tackle, John Simon and Anfernee Jennings at outside linebacker, Ja’Whaun Bentley at inside linebacker, Adrian Phillips at strong safety and Devin McCourty at free safety. The distinctions themselves are somewhat questionable of course, with Winovich and Wise Jr. not playing the same positions within New England’s defense, after all.
Nevertheless, those are the 11 players the Patriots opted to send in and Jackson is not part of the group.
While the team could indeed have just gone with its most experienced players as Pro Bowl nominees, the fact that third-round rookie Anfernee Jennings is on the list suggests that other motives might be at play as well. What those could look like was pointed out by Pats Pulpit’s own Brian Phillips on Twitter:
One reason for doing this *could* be that the Patriots’ plan on inking Jackson to a deal that includes Pro Bowl incentives. Without being chosen on the original ballot this year, next year’s Pro Bowl incentive wouldn’t count against their 2021 salary cap.
Jackson, a former undrafted free agent, is currently in the final season of his rookie pact and scheduled to enter restricted free agency next year. Having his contract situation in mind while making decisions about who to nominate for Pro Bowl voting would not be out of the ordinary for an organization as anal about everything as the Patriots. Of course, the truth will likely never come to mind but it is still an interesting theory.
And, at the end of the day, it is more fun to talk about this than the tiresome “Who was responsible for the Patriots’ dynasty, Belichick or Brady?” repeatedly pushed on sports talk radio.
If you want to vote for the Patriots who are on the Pro Bowl ballot, please head over to NFL.com to cast your vote. Starting December 1, you can also vote on social media by using the hashtag #ProBowlVote plus a player’s first and last name (i.e. #ProBowlVote Stephon Gilmore).