Pro Bowl voting is an inexact science, but it's not so random that you can't ignore the painful truth revealed by the Pro Bowl rosters released Tuesday: the Bears were the most disappointing team in the NFL this season.
One look at the list of seven teams that had more than three players in this season's Pro Bowl says it all:
49ers (8) -- 12-3
Patriots (8) -- 12-3
Packers (7) -- 14-1
Ravens (7) -- 11-4
BEARS (5) -- 7-8
Saints (5) -- 12-3
Steelers (5) -- 11-4
If these were the multiple-choice options on a standardized intelligence test, the Bears would be the house without the chimney. There's no doubt which of these does not belong with the others.
The Bears were the worst kind of disappointing -- good enough to warrant respect from fans, coaches and players and still fail to make the postseason. The Eagles were arguably the bigger bust. But they just failed to live up to expectations. The Bears actually were good and still crapped out. That's a sting that lasts.
The Bears' five Pro Bowl players were linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, cornerback Charles Tillman, running back Matt Forte and special-teams ace Corey Graham.
Tillman, Forte and Graham are first-time Pro Bowlers. So it's not like they got in on reputation. In fact, the Bears legitimately could have had seven players in the Pro Bowl -- one for each victory so far this season -- if two players who could have been selected on both merit and reputation had made it: defensive end Julius Peppers and kick returner Devin Hester.
And the great irony is that the one player most responsible for the Bears' demise -- injured quarterback Jay Cutler -- didn't even make the Pro Bowl and shouldn't have even if he stayed healthy. Is there a player in the NFL more valuable to a playoff-caliber team who is not a Pro Bowl player than Cutler? Not even Tim Tebow.
The five Pro Bowl players is the most for a non-playoff Bears team since 1965, when Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, defensive end Doug Atkins, tight end Mike Ditka and linebacker Joe
Fortunato made it from a 9-5 team.
But that was when only two teams made the postseason. This is the most Pro Bowl players from a non-winning team since 1957, when Atkins, linebacker Bill George, guard Stan Jones, running back Rick Casares and offensive tackle Kline Gilbert made it from a 5-7 team.