ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos landed three of a kind, but it wasn't what they had in mind.
Wednesday, Denver produced three Pro Bowl first alternates in free safety Justin Simmons, cornerback Pat Surtain II and left tackle Garett Bolles. However, for the first time in four decades, the Broncos failed to produce a true Pro Bowler. One of the aforementioned players will likely appear in the game because of injury or players unavailable because of the postseason.
Denver has had at least one player make the Pro Bowl each year since 1981.
Simmons represents the biggest snub. He leads the Broncos with five interceptions — tied for most among AFC safeties — and boasts 68 tackles with two sacks.
"He made it last year, and he's had a better season this year," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
The AFC's top safeties were Kevin Byard, Derwin James and Tyrann Mathieiu.
"IDK how (Simmons) didn't make the pro bowl this is jokes," tweeted Broncos defensive lineman DeShawn Williams.
Idk how @jsimms1119 didn’t make the pro bowl this is jokes!— DeShawn Williams (@iamDeShawnW) December 23, 2021
Fangio added that Surtain was "deserving of the honor," along with running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. Williams, a rookie, finished as a fifth alternate, with Bradley Chubb third and Kareem Jackson sixth. Jackson is the only Broncos player who led the voting for a few segments.
Surtain, the ninth overall pick in the most recent draft, has produced one of the best seasons in franchise history by a rookie defender. He owns four picks and 12 passes defensed. His four interceptions ranks second among AFC cornerbacks.
After early season struggles, Bolles has rebounded over the last several games. He earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020, but failed to make the Pro Bowl. So while his season is not a strong, this appears to make up for that slight.
Surtain and Williams represent crown jewels in general manager George Paton's first draft class that features starters in linebacker Baron Browning and right guard Quinn Meinerz and key contributors Jonathon Cooper and Caden Sterns.
The Broncos failing to play on Monday night this season, and losing national appeal has hurt them in Pro Bowl voting, which, at its essence, remains a popularity contest. Denver has missed the playoffs five straight seasons and suffered four straight losing campaigns.