Pro Bowl 2013: 4 Replacement Ideas for NFL's Unwatchable All-Star Game
In fact, the reality is essentially the opposite.
An assortment of players dodge the competition every year, and those who actually do make the trip to Hawaii typically give half an effort in a poorly played representation of the game. Most years, the Pro Bowl is hard to watch; the rest of the time, it's downright embarrassing.
The NFL may not be ready to give up the Pro Bowl yet, but most fans are ready and hoping for a change. In the following slides, we'll present ideas for replacing the NFL's annual all-star game.
Name the Team, Scrap the Game
In all fairness, the real allure of the Pro Bowl does not actually come from the game.
While a subsection of fans may care about the 60 minutes of terrible football, most others only care—albeit still a small amount—about the original naming of the team. It's an arguing point for fans and a point of pride for players.
As was the case this season, the roster you'll see on the field on Sunday night is far from the best the NFL has to offer. For a variety of reasons, a relatively high number of the selected players opted to skip the event.
This reality leaves the NFL with a simple solution: Name the Pro Bowl rosters but scrap the actual game.
While this idea is unlikely because of monetary and exposure reasons, it's a foolproof way of keeping the tradition of the Pro Bowl while also eliminating the unnecessary and unwatchable game.
Also, the NFL should overhaul the selection process while it's at it. Having fans vote is nice in theory, but it often results in awful decisions. Let one group—whether it's the media, coaches or scouts—do the picking.
They know best more times than not.
Set Up Skill Competitions
This idea has been thrown out a lot over the years.
Instead of playing an actual game that few of the players care about, the NFL could fly the Pro Bowlers to Hawaii for a weekend of skill competitions. If the NFL was creative enough in the variety of competitions, the event could become something that both the players and fans look forward to.
We also know the idea works because skill events performed at previous Pro Bowls have been big hits for fans and players alike. Reruns of those events are still interesting to watch years later.
And, if both sides truly want to minimize injury, the NFL could establish competitions that don't always revolve around feats of elite athletic prowess.
Overall, it's a flexible idea that appeals to both sides. And it might just be the only feasible solution to the Pro Bowl problem.
Instead of playing the Pro Bowl as if it were a glorified 7-on-7 session, the NFL should just take off the helmets and pads and play it as such.
No longer would we see guards play patty-cake with defensive tackles or defensive ends lazily rush off the edge with zero intention of getting to the quarterback.
As an added bonus, the lineman on both sides could be eligible on any play to come in as a receiver or defensive back. Bleacher Report's NFL lead writer Michael Schottey explains the fun idea in better detail here.
While a 7-on-7 format is not a perfect fix, the new game would be true to what it's selling. That's worth something at least.
Senior Bowl Plus Pro Bowl Combination
Quite possibly the best idea for fixing the Pro Bowl comes courtesy of a thoughtful discussion with Bleacher Report's NFL associate editor Ian Kenyon.
With the NFL now playing its all-star game on the weekend before the Super Bowl, both the Pro Bowl and Senior Bowl fall on the same week. Instead of having two separate events—one in Hawaii, one in Mobile—why not combine the two?
The NFL could still name a Pro Bowl team, but that squad wouldn't be the team competing in this scenario. Instead, the NFL would pick its all-rookie team to face off against a roster of the best NFL draft entrants.
In combining the two, the NFL would get both a watchable event and a useful scouting tool for every single team.
Who wouldn't want to watch a quarterback like Geno Smith or Mike Glennon face a defense featuring Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner and Casey Hayward? Or Dee Milliner and Bjorn Werner attempting to stop an offense led by Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson?
NFL teams would eat up an opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow face off against proven talent. And fans would get a chance to see a showcase of the young, exciting players of the next generation.
The fine details would have to get worked out, but as a feasible fix, it's hard to come up with a better idea than this one.