The Pro Bowl used to be a display of the NFL’s elite talent, but over the years it has lost its original meaning. Nowadays, the Pro Bowl is a fluff game between championship weekend and Super Bowl weekend.
On most plays, defenders barely try to sack the quarterback or defend passes. Some guys barely try, period. Of course the Pro Bowl doesn’t really count for anything, and the players don’t get paid that much in comparison to regular season or playoff games, but that doesn’t mean that players shouldn’t put in more effort.
We all know that no one wants to get hurt in a game like the Pro Bowl, but accidents can happen either way. Even some preseason games are more entertaining than the Pro Bowl, and that just shouldn’t be the case. When a game between third stringers is more exciting and competitive than a game filled with the biggest names in the league, that’s a problem.
Perhaps the reason why preseason games are more competitive is because they have more to play for. Those are guys fighting for a roster spot, for a chance to play on the biggest stage of them all, whereas players in the Pro Bowl aren’t playing for much more than a single game check.
While completely abolishing the Pro Bowl may not be the solution, something needs to be done. Here are five reasons why the NFL should get rid of the Pro Bowl, and five suggestions that may improve the quality of the game for players and fans alike.
The Pro Bowl voting system is meant to appeal to fans and players alike. Anyone and everyone can vote players into the Pro Bowl, and that is where one of the biggest flaws lies.
It is no secret that many players earn Pro Bowl nods not so much because of their stats from the past year but on their name. Players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are almost surefire locks for the Pro Bowl each year, and while they are two of the best in the game, it is unfair to other players who had an equally impressive year.
This isn’t about just this year, but every year, and at every position. It’s become an extremely predictable game in terms of its rosters, and just isn’t as exciting as it used to be.
While most every player would surely prefer a Super Bowl ring over a Pro Bowl appearance, I don’t believe as many guys would prefer a Super Bowl loss to a Pro Bowl appearance.
Before, when the Pro Bowl took place the week after the Super Bowl, it allowed every player that was voted in to participate, even if they had played in the Super Bowl the week before.
Since they’ve moved the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, players who have made it to the Super Bowl are no longer allowed to play in the Pro Bowl. Now, if their team wins the Super Bowl, I’m sure it softens the blow of not being able to play, but if they don’t, then it must sting that much more. Plus, there is something fulfilling about watching your favorite players from your favorite team play in both the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
Another big problem with the Pro Bowl is the players who decline their invitations. While some decline due to legitimate injury, others seem to play up less significant injuries for whatever reason.
Whether they think they’re too good for the Pro Bowl, see it as a consolation for not making it to the Super Bowl, or are just afraid of some fluke injury, some players turn down their invitations and thus let down fans across the country. There’s a reason that they were voted for so much by the fans, and by not playing they are letting down their biggest supporters.
The Pro Bowl used to be a major honor for players across the league, as well as a free trip to Hawaii. If the league can’t even sell an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii to some of their players, then something is definitely wrong.
The players know that the Pro Bowl has become a joke game. They only add to that when they don’t put in the same type of effort that they do in regular season games. On almost every extra point or field goal the lineman barely move, much less block or rush the kicker.
There was one play specifically in this year's game that highlighted the defenders’ lack of effort. On a 4th-and-4 play in the red zone, Russell Wilson scrambled out of the pocket and threw to a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Fitzgerald is a fantastic receiver, but it was evident that the guy covering him had backed off towards the end of the route. Sure, it provides for a lot of scoring, but it takes away from the competitiveness of the game; it’s almost like watching a couple of your buddies play a game of Madden.
It doesn’t make much sense that these players play so hard all year and are voted to the Pro Bowl because of it, only to loosen the reigns and not play their best.
Because of the players not putting their best foot forward in the Pro Bowl, it has led to games being completely dominated by the offense. While high-scoring games can be exciting to watch, the lack of competitiveness takes away from the entire experience for fans watching.
This year’s Pro Bowl was an especially high-scoring game as the NFC won 62-35. While it wasn’t as boring as some of the other games in recent years, it is still evident that there are many improvements to be made. Here are five suggestions that would certainly improve the Pro Bowl for years to come.
5. Change the Pro Bowl to a flag football game
It seems as though the biggest concern for players is injuries. No one wants to get hurt in a game that doesn't really mean anything, and changing the Pro Bowl completely so it is a flag football game may be a viable solution. While it may take away the last bit of competitiveness that there is in the Pro Bowl, it would still highlight the offenses and make it a safer event for players. Plus, they may be able to add in a couple legends here and there. Wouldn't it be fun to see Aaron Rodgers throw a touchdown to Jerry Rice? It would bring more attention to the game and would also bring back some of the fun for the fans.
4. Increase the payout for the winning team
This may seem more or less like a bribe, but why not? Let's say they increased the winner's game check to $100,000 and decreased the loser's check to $15,000. That may incite more of a spark from the players, thus leading to a more competitive game to watch. The whole reason behind the Pro Bowl isn't so much for the honor that comes with being selected as much as it is for the fans watching. By increasing the game check for the winners and decreasing the check for the losers, it may help bring back the competitiveness that used to be so prevalent in the Pro Bowl.
3. Fine players for not attending
As I mentioned earlier, some players choose not to attend the Pro Bowl for various reasons, and while it may not make a difference, enforcing a fine for the players who choose not to play may bandage that problem. This game is for the fans, and the fans want to see who they voted for in the Pro Bowl. If their guy simply chooses not to play, then that makes the game slightly less enjoyable for whomever voted for him. While players get fined all the time and it barely makes a dent in their bank account, the message behind the fine is the most important thing. The Pro Bowl is just as much a reward for the fans as it is for the players, and if the fans want a certain guy to play then he should play—no questions asked.
2. Change the date and time
Personally, I hated when they moved the Pro Bowl to before the Super Bowl. If they pushed the Pro Bowl back to either the week after the Super Bowl or sometime after that, then the game would regain some of its popularity. By pushing it back to after the Super Bowl, all of the players partaking in the championship game that were also voted to the Pro Bowl would be able to play in both games. Also, if they decided to push the game even further into the spring or even summer, it may create some buzz for the Hall of Fame game that takes place each August.
1. Add in a skills challenge throughout the week
While it wouldn't directly affect the game, adding in a skills challenge would certainly bring more attention to the Pro Bowl in the week leading up to it. It would include challenges such as the 40 yard dash, bench press, quarterback distance/accuracy competition, punt/pass/kick competition and a distance kicking competition. Challenges like these would not only be fun for the players, but would also be fun for the fans watching. It would determine the league's strongest and fastest players, and would create more buzz leading up to the actual game.
While these are simply just some suggestions, it is clear that the NFL needs to do something about the Pro Bowl.