NFL Pro Bowl: 5 Changes NFL Needs to Make to Improve the Worst All-Star Game
A lot of NFL fans think the Pro Bowl is a joke, and I'd have to agree.
Defenses can't blitz, and they must run a 4-3 defensive scheme at all times. The offense must use a tight end in all formations, and motion or movement on offense before this snap is not allowed. While those rules are in place to protect the players, it seriously takes away from the game itself.
The lack of any skills competitions combined with a lack of hall-of-fame player involvement and the game itself actually holding any meaning, makes for the worst "All-Star" weekend in all of professional sports.
NFL, you're in luck. I'm about to show you the five things you can do to save your precious Pro Bowl.
Make It a Full Pro Bowl Weekend with Skill Position Challenges
What's the one difference between the NFL Pro Bowl and every other professional sport's All-Star weekend? It's the presence of some type of skills competition.
The MLB All-Star weekend has the Home Run Derby. The NHL has the All-Star Skills Competition and the NBA has the world famous Slam Dunk Contest in addition to their own version of a skills competition.
The NFL used to have a skills competition, involving competitions between receivers, quarterbacks and running backs, but it got axed after the 2007 Pro Bowl for some reason. If the NFL was to bring back the skills competition it would help turn the watered down Pro Bowl game into more of a full weekend of events.
If the NFL really wants to amp up it's Pro Bowl weekend they should go one step further by adding a skills competition that puts quarterbacks in wide receivers competitions, wide receiver in quarterback competitions and so on. It would add a level of pure fun to the Pro Bowl weekend to see elite players competing at different positions.
A skills competition would be a platform for players to promote themselves and it would add an increased level of fan-appeal to the otherwise underwhelming Pro Bowl game.
Add an Event That Incorporates Retired NFL Players & Legends
We've all heard NFL fans debating topics like whether or not Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Joe Montana, if any current wide receiver would be able to break free from "primetime" Deion Sanders, or whether or not Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Brett Favre.
The NFL should use the Pro Bowl as a platform to bring those sort of questions and debates to the forefront of the weekend celebration. How great would it be to see Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald compete in a "best hands" skill competition or to see Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees compete in a "most accurate quarterback" skills competition?
Bringing the legends of the NFL into the Pro Bowl weekend would be a great way to pull interest from all kinds of NFL fans, from current day fans hoping to see their favorite player outperform a legend to fans of the "golden days" of the NFL hoping for their favorite legend to outplay the present day stars.
No matter how you look at it, the NFL would be making a smart move by incorporating NFL legends into the Pro Bowl weekend because it is a way to honor those players while at the same time attempting to increase fan interest in the all-star weekend.
I know I'd certainly tune in if Pro Bowl weekend included a competition between current NFL stars and NFL legends, wouldn't you?
Add a Five-on-Five Flag Football Tournament with a "Fantasy Style Draft"
The NFL can learn something from the NHL when it comes to the Pro Bowl weekend. The NHL was the first to implement a "draft" element into their all-star game. Two nights before the NHL's All-Star game is played, they have a televised draft in which two captains pick the rosters for their respective conference.
While the NFL doesn't need to do the exact same thing, they would benefit from incorporating a player led draft into the Pro Bowl weekend on some level.
The way I see it working is by letting the fans select eight captains for a single elimination flag-football tournament, who then are involved in drafting the five man rosters for their teams. Each of the eight teams would then compete in a flag football tournament involving players playing at different positions than they usually.
For example one team could be made up of Calvin Johnson at quarterback, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers at wide receiver, and Von Miller and Charles Woods at running back/tight end. The NFL could even add retired players and legends to the competition to add a whole other layer of depth.
A player led competition like that is just the thing that the NFL needs to set the Pro Bowl apart from other All-Star weekends, and to inject a serious level of interest and excitement into an otherwise currently lacking Pro Bowl weekend.
Add Value to the Actual Game by Making It Means Something
The NFL Pro Bowl is currently set up to be nothing more than a filler between the AFC/NFC Championship games and the almighty Super Bowl. While that isn't necessarily a terrible thing, there's just not enough meaning to the game for the players to actually care about it.
The MLB and their All-Star game was suffering the same meaningless fate until they decided to make the game worth something extremely valuable, home-field advantage throughout the World Series. While there is debate on whether or not the MLB All-Star game should be so important, there's no doubt that it's increased importance has resulted in increased viewership.
The NFL should take a page out of the MLB's book of how to manage an All-Star game by adding meaning and value to the Pro Bowl. The outcome of the Pro Bowl could dictate which team gets the coin toss in the next season's Super Bowl or which team is considered to be the home/away team, etc.
While those outcomes aren't necessarily ground-breaking, and they wouldn't guarantee 100% performance out of all the players in the Pro Bowl, it would still be something more tangible for the players and fans to hold onto, instead of allowing the Pro Bowl to continue to be meaningless.
Move the Game out of Hawaii
In 1979, the NFL Pro Bowl was moved to the beautiful city of Honolulu, Hawaii.
While that wasn't a bad move, because of the beautiful weather and resort style appeal, the fact of the matter is that there aren't a lot of fans, not located in the Hawaii, that are willing or even capable of making the trip to Hawaii to watch the Pro Bowl each and every year.
The Pro Bowl is usually at capacity in Aloha Stadium, but because it's capacity is only around 49,500 it limits the amount of fans that can actually be at the game. In 2010, the Pro Bowl was moved to Sun Life Stadium in Florida, and it drew an attendance of nearly 71,000. That increase in attendance just shows that there is serious interest in fans actually going to the Pro Bowl, but that increase in attendance can only happen if the game is moved away from Hawaii.
Bringing the Pro Bowl back to the continental United States would make traveling to the Pro Bowl much easier, and it would also bring about the possibility of U.S cities being able to "bid" on hosting the Pro Bowl, which would also create much more interest in the game.
Hawaii is undoubtedly a great place, but it's not the first place that comes to mind when you think of NFL football. The NFL needs to act on that notion, and bring the Pro Bowl back to the continental United States.