3 Reasons Why Pro Bowl's Return Will Prove Disastrous
Despite threats from commissioner Roger Goodell this offseason, the NFL announced Wednesday that the Pro Bowl will return in 2013.
Goodell informed the players after last season's performance that canceling the game moving forward was a real option. In the end, however, the game will return—with a promise from the players that the competitiveness will be better.
From NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson, via ESPN:
The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. We look forward to working with the players toward the goal of improving the competitiveness of this season's game.
The NFL and the Pro Bowl has taken a lot of criticism over the last decade over the quality of the game it has produced in its annual All-Star showcase.
Is bringing back the time-honored tradition the right move?
In the following slides, we'll break down a few reasons why bringing back the Pro Bowl may not be a smart decision from the NFL.
The Game Isn't Football
Yes, the Pro Bowl is played with a oblong ball, each player wears a jersey and helmet and a touchdown counts for six points. On the surface, the Pro Bowl is still football.
But you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand what you're watching in Hawaii isn't football.
There's no tackling, no blitzing, no effort. The Pro Bowl is simply 7-on-7 (why are offensive and defensive linemen even playing?) with each player doing whatever they can to make it through the contest without getting injured.
The NFL players can promise all they want that the "competitiveness" will increase. I doubt it does. With almost zero monetary incentive to win the game, few players are going to risk suffering a career-altering injury giving maximum effort—especially with the grind of a 16-game or more NFL season in the rear-view mirror.
I find it hard to believe that the product shown at the Pro Bowl will increase in quality until wide-scale changes are made to the event. Without better quality, bringing back the game makes little sense.
The Event Remains Unchanged
We touched on this to end the last slide, but the Pro Bowl needs wide-reaching changes to the entire event. According to the new agreement for 2013, no such changes are being made.
What can the NFL do to spruce up the Pro Bowl? Look no further than what the other major sports' All-Star games already accomplish.
The NBA has a skills competition, rookie-sophomore game, three-point contest and slam dunk competition, and that's all before the actual All-Star game is played. It's a weekend event that is well-conceived.
The NHL does something very similar to the NBA in terms of a complete package of events over a weekend. And MLB has its home run derby, which is one of the biggest draws in the history of all-star events.
The NFL has no such collection of events before the actual All-Star game.
The players practice during the week and then the NFL throws the Pro Bowl game at you. There are few pre-game events and nothing that compares to what the three other major sports give in terms of entertainment value.
What is stopping the NFL from taking advantage of these other money-making opportunities? A league that has made the scouting combine a watchable television event should be able to conjure up a number of things before the Pro Bowl that would make the actual game to end it all more palatable.
Overall, the Pro Bowl will continue to be a let-down—both in terms of the actual game and the lead-up of things to watch beforehand.
There Is Dissension from the Players
For the better part of a decade, it has been the media and fans (despite top viewing numbers among All-Star games) complaining about the quality of the Pro Bowl.
Players were fine lolly-gagging around in the sun for a week and giving half the effort once the Pro Bowl actually kicked off. Could you blame them?
That thinking changed somewhat last season, however.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers openly questioned the effort of some players, going as far as calling the showing embarrassing.
From ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, who quoted Rodgers' radio appearance on ESPN 540:
I'll be honest with you, I was a little bit disappointed. I felt like some of the guys on the NFC side embarrassed themselves...I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or when they were in there didn't put any effort into it.
Rodgers wasn't the only one voicing their opinion on the Pro Bowl. Most weren't shy in telling the world why the game is so poorly played.
From Matt Light, via Seifert's linked piece above:
You're going to give a little effort, but you're not going to get out of control. Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it's going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?
And from Vince Wilfork, also from Seifert's piece:
Guys play a full season, they play physical through a full season, and you get rewarded. The last thing you want to do is go out in a game like that and hurt yourself. That is not good for the individual or for the organization.
Brett Keisel even mentioned that the Pro Bowl should be played with flags, as the game is nothing more than a glorified walkthrough.
When players start speaking out against the Pro Bowl's quality in such mass, it's an obvious problem. When the same things happen again next January, don't be surprised to hear comments exactly like these from the participants.
Most know the game is embarrassing to watch, but there's no incentive for the players to change how they approach the Pro Bowl without wide-scale changes. This kind of dissension should have been the driving point for the NFL to axe this lazy game.