This is Lomas Brown, the quite competent offensive tackle of the Detroit Lions, discussing why he had toiled in obscurity for six-plus NFL seasons.
"I'm always an alternate to the Pro Bowl but I never get there," he said. "Why? I was a first-round draft choice. I do my job well. But I've played for a team that nobody pays any attention to."And Merlin Olsen:
"When I played, there were always guys at the Pro Bowl because they had always been there. I remember having bad seasons and being ashamed to be there."
As voting for the Pro Bowl and other postseason honors, it's appropriate to look at some of the unsung heroes - guys who play well for losing teams or guys on good teams who are overshadowed by the big names around them. A few, like Michael Dean Perry of the Browns, will probably make it despite his team's record, but the offensive line types, the Lomas Browns, go forever unrecognized.
So . . .
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Brown (see above), whose other problem is the run-and-shoot; Harris Barton of the 49ers, a tackle playing guard on a good teams where no one looks beyond Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and now Charles Haley.
Plus Mike Kenn of the Falcons (having an excellent year at 34), William Roberts and Bart Oates of the Giants, two other good-team guys; Steve Trapilo of the Saints; Bruce Armstrong of the Patriots (the classic good player-bad team guy; Paul Gruber and Randy Grimes of the Bucs. Plus Max Montoya of the Raiders, who seems to be forgotten now that he's moved west and John Alt of the Chiefs.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Guys here get recognition because there are stats, but in the era of the run-and-shoot, stats are distorted because all kinds of guys make five or six catches a game.
Mark Carrier of the Bucs is the best obscure receiver in the league. The guys who also miss out are the supporting cast guys - the possession guys who catch everything thrown to them.
So try Hassan Jones of the Vikings, Eric Martin of the Saints and even Art Monk of the Redskins, who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer but probably won't because he's not fancy, only good. Add Al Toon of the Jets, Anthony Miller of the Chargers (no possession type, he); Brian Blades of the Seahawks, and Andre Reed of the Bills, who even on a good team often gets overlooked.
TIGHT END: A special mention for Butch Rolle of the Bills, whose last eight catches (over three years) have all been for touchdowns. You'd think someone would figure out that when he enters a game near the goal line he ought to be covered.
A better mention for Ron Hall of the Bucs, who's averaging 15.2 yards a catch. And Jay Novacek of the Cowboys, who has caught 53 passes. The Cards left him unprotected in Plan B because he's not a great blocker, but he's caught 16 more balls than anyone in Phoenix.
QUARTERBACK: Phil Simms has had two straight bad games and it's hard to be overlooked on a good team in New York, but he is - particularly at home, where Simms-bashing is again in vogue. Plus Jim Kelly and Warren Moon, whose excellent years are obscured by Randall Cunningham and Joe Montana.
If Atlanta's Chris Miller could stay healthy and played on a good team, he'd be a star (a couple of big ifs.) And please don't knock the Bears' Jim Harbaugh until he does something bad.
RUNNING BACK: Earnest Byner of the Redskins, who's notorious for his mistakes in big games, but is one of the NFL's most solid backs - Cleveland acknowledges one of its biggest mistakes was trading him; Maurice Carthon of the Giants, really an extra offensive lineman in the backfield; Barry Word of Kansas City; Derrick Fenner of Seattle; Merril Hoge of Pittsburgh; John Stephens of New England; Brad Muster of Chicago; Heath Sherman of Philadelphia and Craig "Ironhead" Heyward of New Orleans, averaging 5.1 yards a game.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: If Michael Dean Perry is getting his due, his brother The Fridge isn't - an underachiever for so long, his career year in Chicago is now overlooked. Same for Trace Armstrong of the Bears, because he's only in his second year.
Also Leslie O'Neal of the Chargers (a quasi-linebacker); Erik Howard of the Giants; Jeff Lageman of the Jets; Al Noga and Henry Thomas of the Vikings; Danny Stubbs of the Cowboys; Greg Townsend of the Raiders.
LINEBACKERS: Start with Kyle Clifton of the Jets, a good year on a bad team. Add Mike Cofer of the Lions; Ron Rivera of the Bears, one of those overlooked good-team guys; Seth Joyner and Byron Evans of the Eagles; Darryl Talley of the Bills; Mike Johnson of the Browns; David Griggs of the Dolphins; Duane Bickett of the Colts and Ken Harvey of the Cardinals, a star who's lost in the desert.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: The key to the Giants' defense isn't Lawrence Taylor. It's two second-year safeties, Greg Jackson and Myron Guyton.
Plus Bennie Blades of the Lions; Carnell Lake of the Steelers; Bubba McDowell of the Oilers; Gill Byrd of the Chargers; Wayne Haddix of the Bucs; Vestee Jackson (injured) of the Bears.
If some of these guys are in the Pro Bowl, so much the better.