A 59-41 final score looks good on paper, but that’s about the most appealing thing about the NFL Pro Bowl. We’ve come to expect one-sided offense from the NFL’s worst week of the year, which is more reminiscent of this year’s Valero Alamo Bowl than a serious professional football game.
This game could have been a lot more high-scoring had the NFC not put in Cam Newton for the entire second half, as he proceeded to throw three interceptions and only two touchdowns.
The only real highlights of the game came courtesy of the coaching of Mike McCarthy, who endeavored to show just how unimportant this game is by directing his NFC squad to attempt two onside kicks and a fake-punt pass. The crazy thing is that all three of them succeeded, which goes to show how much effort the AFC special teams unit put forth.
It’s beyond argument that the Pro Bowl has ceased to be anything resembling a relevant game, lagging far behind All-Star matchups in comparable sports. The only thing that can happen now—other than merely allowing the game to continue being the laughingstock that it is—is to determine how to change it for the better.
The first real change that can happen is simple: Encourage the players to treat it like a real game.
When the Pro Bowl started, neither team was taking it seriously, and no one was really putting forth effort. The game will continue to be a sham until the coaches and players all treat it like the mini-Super Bowl that it should be and start playing like they take pride in the outcome.
To that end, the second change that needs to take place is the removal of the special rules designed to protect the players. I know, one of the main goals of the Pro Bowl is to send everybody home in one piece, but physical contact is a reality of football.
NFL fans don’t want to see powder-puffs, and we know the difference between a game of football and a game of two-hand touch. The players shouldn’t play like they want to injure their opponents, but they should at least be able to make them hit the turf a few times. If the defense can’t play defense, boring games that look more like seven-on-seven high-school practices will continue to be the norm.
The third change that the NFL needs to make is to attach some significance to the Pro Bowl. Right now, the game is a meaningless scrimmage. I don’t know the best way to give this game meaning, but there are many possibilities.
The league could offer to use the Pro Bowl as the primary tiebreaker for draft picks, allowing a team from the winning conference to pick ahead of teams with the same record from the other conference (the exception, of course, being those teams that make postseason play). At the very least, though, the NFL needs to appeal to some conference pride and make losing hurt where it counts most for professional athletes—their egos.
One way or another, the NFL needs to take some serious action to remedy the sad situation that is the Pro Bowl, and it needs to happen fast. Football fans don’t want their All-Star matchup to continue in this state of disrepair.