When you think about the all-stars of the NFL, a couple of names instantly come to mind: , and ... ? Well, maybe not. But the , the league's new spin on its annual pre-Super Bowl showcase, will feature the Ravens quarterback as one of three AFC quarterbacks, despite the backup playing just six games in 2022.
How did this happen? And why is Huntley's improbable Pro Bowl berth not nearly as maddening as it might seem? We're so glad you asked.
While the Pro Bowl itself looks different this year, with the NFL alongside a flag football tournament in place of a full-contact exhibition, the selection process is the same: votes from fans, players and coaches are pooled together to recognize the game's best at each position.
Huntley, meanwhile, was not the first choice among AFC QBs; in fact, he finished seventh in voting. Mahomes, Burrow and were the original Pro Bowl honorees, with and tabbed as the top alternates. Huntley's fellow QB reportedly finished as the third AFC alternate. But Mahomes is Super Bowl-bound, and all four of Allen, Herbert, Jackson and Tagovailoa have been excused due to injuries. Burrow bowed out as well and will be replaced by .
Huntley, therefore, will join fellow alternate and Carr as the AFC's actual Pro Bowl Games QBs. It's a stunning "achievement," no doubt: Huntley helped guide the Ravens to a playoff appearance in five starts replacing the injured Jackson, saving his best performance (226 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 56 rushing yards) for a 24-17 wild-card loss to the . But he was thoroughly mediocre in his overall run as a replacement starter, going 2-3 while throwing just two TDs and three interceptions, with a 77.2 passer rating, during the regular season.
And yet, his Pro Bowl entry feels at least a bit less unearned when you consider the alternatives: seven QBs deep into the AFC, your most accomplished 2022 QBs include the likes of , , and . Half those veterans might be replaced as starters before next season. And in the new Pro Bowl format, where athleticism takes precedence in the skills competition, Huntley suddenly stands out as a more appealing selection.
None of that's to say the voting and selection process isn't still worthy of critique: when half of a conference's elite QBs can opt out of participation with relative ease, it begs the question, why bother at all? Maybe, just maybe, Huntley will prove us all wrong.
He won't be the only player taking part in the Pro Bowl Games as a promoted alternate. Here's a rundown of some other notable names -- some bigger than others -- who've been elevated to the lineup thanks to injuries or Super Bowl opt-outs: