10 Ways to Fix the NFL's Pro Bowl
The NFL Pro Bowl is an absolute joke.
It's a scrimmage between some of the NFL's best players on the Sunday before the Super Bowl. Yes, the Pro Bowl has become nothing more than a game of two-hand touch between players who couldn't care less about the outcome.
Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to blame the players for a lack of effort, but the league itself has failed this game. Here's what needs to be done to make the Pro Bowl viable.
1. Give Players More Incentive
Last January, players from the winning AFC side earned $50,000 compared to half of that for the losing NFC squad (via ESPN). While this isn't chump change, $25,000 isn't a huge incentive for players to give their all.
If the NFL decided to award the players on the winning side $25,000 more, that would in theory make it more competitive.
After all, who wouldn't want more money? Make it a $50,000 difference between winning and losing, and we will see a much better product on the field.
2. Eliminate the Fan Vote
If it weren't for fans, there would be no NFL. It's all about supply and demand. And in this case, the demand is extremely high.
With that in mind, fans are biased. They will go on NFL.com and vote for a specific player dozens of times, even if that player is nowhere near Pro Bowl-caliber. For many fans, it is all about getting a player from their favorite team in the game.
On the other hand, the players and coaches are more objective in their voting. More often than the fans, they will send the best players to the game.
There is precedent for this. Before 1995, fans were not involved in the voting (via ESPN). The NFL should return to that system and leave this up to the players and coaches.
3. Let the Best Actually Play in the All-Star Game
Why did the NFL decide to move the Pro Bowl up two weeks? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have a combined 15 Pro Bowl players who won't be taking part in the game. Does that make any sense at all?
After all, the Pro Bowl is supposed to be the best of the best. How can the “best team” from each conference not send a single member to the annual event in Hawaii? The NFL really dropped the ball on this one.
For the best of the best to take part in the game, it will have to be played either after the Super Bowl or in September between the preseason and the regular season. Anything short of that, and we are getting a watered-down product.
Roger Goodell's decision to move the game from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before has negatively impacted it.
Moving the Pro Bowl back to the week after the Super Bowl is the most obvious solution.
Because of the potential for injuries, I just can't envision teams agreeing to playing an all-star game in the middle of the season or before it begins.
4. Rule Changes
Roger Goodell can continue to blame the players for a lack of effort, but it isn't like the NFL is pushing them to compete more.
Just take a gander at the Pro Bowl's silly rules for a second:
* No motion or shifting by the defense.
* Must run a traditional 4-3 set.
* No press coverage outside of the 5-yard line.
* No blitzing.
* No rushing the kicker.
So pretty much any effective defensive scheme isn't available. And the NFL wonders why there is a lack of competition on the field.
I understand injuries are a concern, but this is completely out of hand.
5. Move It to Las Vegas
Call me a realist, but it doesn’t seem like the NFL wants much to do with Hawaii. It attempted to move the Pro Bowl to South Beach, but that ended up becoming one huge failure.
What about Vegas?
As odds and lines become a more integral part of the sport we love, the NFL is going to have to find a way to make the gambling mecca of the United States a part of what it does. Of course, this is highly unlikely considering the NFL continues to separate itself from gambling and the whole strip scene.
But if other sporting events can be held in Vegas, why not the Pro Bowl?
I don’t think the NFL would get too much of an argument from the players on this one.
6. Make It an All-Star Weekend
While football was my sport of choice growing up, I absolutely loved watching NBA All-Star Weekend. From the Slam Dunk Contest to the Three Point Contest, basketball gets it right when it comes to showcasing the best talent it has to offer.
Like in the Pro Bowl, I understand that defense is optional a vast majority of the time in the NBA All-Star Game. That being said, the NBA puts on a solid weekend experience for fans in person and for us watching on television.
Just imagine NFL All-Star Weekend with a skills competition Friday night, some type of combine-like event Saturday (more on that later) and the game on Sunday. All of it happening in Vegas, of course.
This would spice things up a bit.
7. A Combine-Like Event on Saturday
The NFL combine has gained popularity over the last few years. No longer is it an event that only draftniks like me watch. Instead, the NFL Network has started to air it, and it has developed something of a cult following among fans.
In addition to my All-Star Weekend idea, the NFL should adopt a combine-like event for Pro Bowl players.
I would also love to see Jimmy Graham go up against another elite tight end in the gauntlet drill. As you can envision, there are so many possibilities here.
8. Awards Show from Mandalay Bay
The NFL made a great decision to start an awards show to announce the MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, among many other awards. In fact, the show was pretty entertaining last January in the first annual bash.
Why not bring it to Vegas and have it the night of the Pro Bowl? More elite players would be inclined to show up and make their presence known. After all, who turns down the opportunity to be given an award?
Heck, they could even announce the Pro Bowl MVP at the event.
9. Get the Party Started
We have Vegas, an All-Star Weekend and an awards show. Of course, the only logical next step would be for the NFL to throw a huge party for the players, some fans and executives around the league.
As of right now, players finish the Pro Bowl and board a plane directly out of Hawaii the night of the game. It all seems to come to an abrupt end.
Don't the players deserve a bit more? Roger Goodell needs to come through and throw them a lavish party following the game to reward the players for a hard season and the millions that they made him.
This concept has been widely discussed in the media and should be a logical choice for the NFL. Maybe even do a drawing for those at the game and give away a limited number of tickets to fans.
After all, it is all about public relations in this new social-media age.
As it is, the cronies who run the NFL are probably too worried about a drunken romp or fights breaking out.
10. Just Cancel It
One way to fix the Pro Bowl is to cancel it. In fact, I am pretty sure most fans wouldn't care too much following the embarrassing performance we saw last January.
If the players and the league are not fully invested in providing fans with the best product, fans shouldn't have to be part of the mockery.
I understand that one could easily avoid the television on Pro Bowl Sunday. Maybe go out with the family for a nice brunch, something many of us refuse to do during the regular season.
That's not the point.
We pay good money for the NFL and expect the best possible version of it. Not a scene of Justin Smith laughing it up with an offensive lineman in the middle of a play, as we saw last January.
That isn't the player any of us have come to know. That isn't the player who will be giving his all next week in New Orleans.
While Smith is just one example, he isn't the true problem here.
The NFL needs to set the standards by enacting what I mentioned in the previous slides. Until it decides to take the Pro Bowl seriously, it can't expect the players and fans to follow suit.
Cancel the game and replace it with the All-Star weekend that I mentioned before. Why should we try if the NFL and its players clearly aren't?
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