Saturday, December 31, 2022

For the Second Time in 59 Years, NFLPA to Choose All-Pro Team

 By John Turney 
According to the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, via a Tweet, reported that NFLPA president J.C. Tretter sent an e-mail to NFL players with this comment, "For too long, we as NFL players have allowed everyone else to define the best of us. That ends now."

Today, Tretter Tweeted, "1 of the 50 AP voters last year made his voting decision based on a player’s vaccine status. So maybe we should slow down on making them the beacon of on-field evaluation."

As a remedy, the NFLPA will release its own All-NFL team in January according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero 

This will be the second time the NFLPA will have chosen an All-Pro team. The first was for the 1963 NFL season and the team was announced and covered in an AP story on January 5, 1964.

In the NFLPA's past, there have been other awards. In fact, they have had an interesting history of post-season awards over the years starting out with Most Valuable Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, then adding Rookies of the year, a Man of the Year (prior to the NFL's currently named Walter Payton Man of the Year Award), Offensive and Defensive Linemen of the year, and later other positions like Special Teams Player of the year, Wide Receiver of the Year and so on. 

These began in 1960 and were sporadic at first and then became more consistent through the years and continued through the 1999 season.

The players association also gave awards to players who led the NFL in statistical categories such as rushing leader, passing leader, interception leader, and so on. These were called Mackey Awards, named after John Mackey a giant figure in NFLPA labor annals. 
Mackey Award for Barry Sanders'
1997 NFC Rushing Title
The awards were usually given out in the early Summer of each year at a charity banquet held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, a black-tie event with entertainment, speakers, a dinner with all the trimmings, and of course the awards ceremony itself. The proceeds were donated to the Better Boys Foundation.

Among the reasons the awards ended after 1999, we were told in 2000, was the lack of sponsors for the dinner. At that time we encouraged the NFLPA to continue the awards even without the gala the powers that be didn't agree but we at least made the suggestion.

An All-Pro team with a tie to the players is a good idea. It has been done before with the creation of the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) All-Pro team in the 1950s by editor/writer Murray Olderman. it continued through 1992 

The NEA team was referred to as the "players' All-Pro team" and carried as much weight as the AP and UPI All-Pro teams at the time. In the late 1960s CBS, the official network of the NFL, televised the NEA Awards dinner, like the NFL Network does today for the AP Awards but of course, the NEA Awards were not official.

The only All-Pro team that was ever officially recognized by the NFL was the 1970 and 1971 Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and was dubbed so in the official "NFL Record and Fact Book" of 1971 and 1972. 

Since then no All-Pro team has been official. 

However, the AP, PFWA, NEA, UPI, Sporting News (SN), and Sports Illustrated have been included over the years in NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreements over the years as counting towards a player meeting a post-season award incentive in his contract that triggers a bonus.

However, some of those organizations and their All-Pro teams/awards are defunct are currently only the AP and PFWA are found in the 2020 NFL-NFLPA CBA.

When posting bios for information booklets for Hall of Fame candidates or for profiles on its website the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses "Total Football:  The Official Encyclopedia of the NFL" as its source for All-Pro teams and awards. It is the closest to official awards as there is, the only reference book on football endorsed by the NFL. 

The modern All-Pro teams and awards contained in it are the AP, UPI, NEA, PFWA, SN, and NY Daily News. There are exceptions in the pre-WWII days when many of the press organizations didn't yet exist and when the NFL had its own awards by and large since perhaps the 1950s those six organizations compose the All-Pro teams found in "Total Football".

The story broken by Tom Pelissero is welcome news. The more the merrier. The NFLPA All-Pro team will not supplant the AP or PFWA or Sporting News All-Pro team but it will give another perspective one that is needed but we don't expect any earth-shattering results. 
The 1963 AP All-Pro team compared to the NFLPA All-Pro Team
AP is on left, and the NFLPA is highlighted in yellow on right. Pink highlights are the differences

It could be different this time but the last time the teams were not dissimilar and when the NFLPA team had one player more of ten than not the AP team had that player on the Second-team so it is not as though the AP team could be considered way off base back then and it is our view that the AP is not way off base now.

We don't think the AP voters are not doing their due diligence when voting for All-Pro teams. Sure, there are votes that can be questioned but reasonable people can disagree but in our experience knowing plenty of pro football writers the way most voters go about their business is to watch with their eyes, of course, but also talk to coaches, talk to other players, use their status to gain access many of us do not have to scouts, general managers, and other insiders. And some may use Pro Football Focus or Next Gen Stats grades. 

We seriously doubt that the 50 AP voters just use their ballots in an irresponsible manner, not doing their due diligence in attempting to fill it out with the best of the best at each position. Do they do it to perfection? Of course not. Is Tretter right in his criticism? Maybe to a small degree. He's talking about a voter who used his ballot to punish Aaron Rodgers but does not mention anyone that made the All-Pro team that did not deserve it. 

We will see if the NFLPA All-Pro team is special or not, and if the ability of players, who have total access to inside information, who is good, who is not, who is great, who has empty stats, who is getting by on reputation, who is an unsung All-Pro but gets overlooked, etc., will cause them to pick significantly different (better?) players than the AP, PFWA, and SN do.

In any event, we will save it an keep it and add it to our collections of hundreds of All-Pro teams from various organizations and people we've kept over the years.


  1. I've long doubted Olderman's claims that the NEA team was chosen by players. I was a sports editor in Ohio from 1961 to 1963 and on two occasions I asked a group of Browns players about it and none of them had ever heard of it.

    1. That is interesting. I was at Olderman's home in Palm Springs in late 1990s . . . we discussed it generally but nothing specific in terms who how many players he asked or anything. At one point he published vote totals but not every year. That said, maybe you are right--I don't doubt your story, just don't know.