The NFL Pro Bowl has long been a game known for poor defense and an all-star competition that doesn't include the game's best.
We’ll never be able to get a real game at the Pro Bowl because the risk-reward is not balanced. The only thing we can do is try to build the experience of the entire week of the Pro Bowl, how to get the fans engaged from a skills perspective and try to make a weekend out of it. The game itself, it’s really hard to replicate a real game.
That is an interesting concept and one that would mimic what the National Hockey League does during its All-Star Weekend (although an All-Star Game is played as well). The issues with the Pro Bowl are limitless. Some stars choose not to play for fear of injury or the fact they are still bummed from losing in the conference championship the week before. Those playing in the Super Bowl also do not participate.
And it's not like the ratings are shooting through the roof. Per Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily, they are actually falling:
Pro Bowl drew 5.0 overnight rating on ESPN. Likely lowest ever. Down sharply from ESPN's 5.6 in 2015 and NBC's 6.7 in 2014— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) February 1, 2016
The NHL's rating, on the same weekend this year, was markedly lower at 1.17, but it is a 24 percent increase from the year before, per Alex Rozis of NBC Sports Group.
Fans are now left to watch a game that consists of two teams drafted to play against each other regardless of conference affiliation. That can create issues, such as the 2014 version, when linebacker Derrick Johnson lit up Kansas City Chiefs teammate Jamaal Charles with a monster hit.
A major injury to either could have ended the Pro Bowl as we know it—or their respective careers.
Jenkins did say on PFT Live he enjoyed taking his family to Hawaii (because who wouldn't?) and that a skills competition could still take place on the Islands, per Smith: “The opportunity to bring my family out to Hawaii and be around my peers,” Jenkins said, “it was an overall great experience.”
In all honesty, who is going to miss the game if it's not played? Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who caught two touchdowns in this year's game, and MVP Russell Wilson might, but they also ran the risk of getting injured in a game that doesn't carry with it the old NFC vs. AFC bragging rights.
I mean, that game might need to be changed. You can't go the whole season, AFC Championship Game, giving it all you've got and thinking you're going to hop on a flight to fly 12 hours to Hawaii that next Tuesday, when I still can't even walk because I took like 20 hits that game. I was not hopping on that plane and just be more tight, more sore when I got off, and just be miserable the whole ride. If it was changed ... I totally understand if you don't go to the playoffs, you got a few weeks off, the Pro Bowl is awesome. But it's hard to go from that game, giving it all you got in the playoffs, to go right to the Pro Bowl. You got to have your body rest, man.
If more players begin to speak out this way, it's possible we'll see guys throwing the ball to moving targets with bull's-eyes instead of actual players. Then again, if it somehow keeps the NFL from making more money, it's not going to matter what any of them are saying.