By John Turney
As far as we can tell All-Pro teams are derivative of All-America teams that began in the late 1980s in college football. When the "pro game" came around the writers picked up on a tradition that had been around and extended it to the NFL.
As in All-America teams, the nomenclature was the same, there were First-team All-Americans and second-team and sometimes Third-teams and honorable mentions. That was true of the new All-Pro teams as well.
First-team was a higher honor than Second-teams—they were NOT the same. The players on the First-teams were the leading vote-getters for their positions and the Second-0teams were the runners up.
What is a bit annoying is some folks like to lump the First-teams together with the Second-teams these days and call someone who was perhaps a one-time First-team All-Pro and a two-time Second-team All-Pro a "Three-time All-Pro". Nonsense.
It's fine if it is noted. Player X was a First- and Second-team All-Pro three times,
As the co-chair of the Awards Committee of the Pro Football Researchers Association and the author of The All-Pros—The Modern Years and co-author of The Best of Each Season—All-Pro Football Teams: 1920-present we wish to pull rank here and explain what the specific terms mean and how they must be accepted and why revisionist history needs to be rejected.
It comes down to fairness.
If players back in the day were only considered (and they were) on the basis of their First-team All-pro selections for the Hall of Fame or even in their bios in media guides and books and so on, why should modern players get an advantage, at least without the notation of "First- and Second-team" to show the picks are combined? That may not be an apples to oranges comparison but it is a Granny Smith to a Fuji comparison.
So, if someone calls Player X a three-time All-Pro when two of those are Second-team we will call you out on it.
No one would consider the MVP and the runner-up to the MVP as the same would they? Then how on earth is the First-team All-Pro/NFL/AFL/AAFC/America and the Second-team the same. Similar? Sure. Almost as worthy? Yes. The same? No.
We've already posted about the "AP Only" school of thought so we won't revisit that only to say we've blown that out of the water. The Associated Press is not THE All-Pro team. It is one of several. That's simply a fact for the reasons we outline in the link above.
Also, we won't go over The 1960s All-Pro/All-NFL/All-AFL Conundrum again either. We will simply say that All-Pro and All-NFL have almost always been synonymous but when it gets technical when comparing Hall of Fame candidates in the current climate that voters ought to look closely at the differences and make sure they are making a Fuji apple to Fuji apple comparison. Again, that is the only fair thing to do.