NFL Pro Bowl: An All-Star Game That Is Not All It Is 'Cracked' Up To Be

Adam WaldmanContributor IJanuary 31, 2011

Pro Bowl MVP DeAngelo Hall
Pro Bowl MVP DeAngelo HallKent Nishimura/Getty Images

In a season filled with twists and turns, it should come as no surprise that a defensive player was named the MVP of a Pro Bowl where 96 total points were scored.

DeAngelo Hall had one of the NFC’s five interceptions, but the play that elevated him to MVP status was his 34-yard touchdown after stripping the ball out of Wes Welker’s hands. 

In a meaningful game, the play most likely never would have happened.  Welker surely must have been surprised to see any defender playing aggressively based on the pathetic tone set by both defenses early on.

Outside of pee-wee football where great running backs can dominate a game, football games are usually won at the line of scrimmage.   Anyone who disagrees need to look no further than the upcoming Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Packers were the No. 6 seed in the NFC, which was considered by most to be the weaker conference this season.  The Steelers were the No. 2 seed in the supposedly stronger AFC, and yet the Packers are favored to win the Super Bowl. 

The absence of Maurkice Pouncey (the Steelers’ All-Pro center) is a primary reason that the more experienced Steelers are underdogs.

The play of the offensive and defensive lines for both teams in the Pro Bowl was abysmal.  With no blitzing allowed in the game, it is understandable that the pressure on the quarterbacks would not be as strong as it is during the season.  However, not blitzing is a far cry from not trying, which is exactly what was on display last night in Hawaii.

Even the most casual observer could see that the effort that was being put forth by both teams fell far short of what is expected by the best football players in the world. 

Clearly, the Pro Bowl is not a game that either team is motivated to win, which begs the question, “Why does the NFL even bother with the game?”

Is it because of tradition?  Is it the fact that every other sport has an all-star game?  Or is it the money that is generated by the game?

My guess is that money is main reason for continuing to put on a game that isn’t anywhere near as intense as the meaningless preseason games that the NFL is trying to virtually eliminate under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If this is the case, then the NFL should use money as leverage to make the game entertaining.  Perhaps the players would play harder if the payout for the game was a winner-take-all proposition.  It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Paying only the winners would not necessarily make the game better though.  First and foremost, the players want to leave the game injury-free, which is understandable.  But even in a winner-take-all scenario, the players would still only make around $70,000 for the game.  That’s a lot of money for the average person, but not so much for Pro Bowl-caliber NFL players.

The chance of eliminating the Pro Bowl entirely is almost non-existent as long as the game is profitable for NFL owners, and the game will not improve as long as the players play to avoid injury instead of playing to win.

Those that stuck around until the end of the game got to see an entertaining (albeit pathetic) play in the final minute.

With the AFC trailing by 20 points it would have made sense to hand the ball off and run out the clock.  But Bill Belichick decided to end the game with his version of the “Music City Miracle.”

Matt Cassel took the snap and waited for Dwayne Bowe to get open.  He had as much time as he wanted because all of the offensive and defensive lineman stood around together as if they were hanging out in a bar.

Bowe caught the pass 21 yards downfield, and then lateraled to Montell Owens who ran for another six yards.  Owens was stood up by CB Brent Grimes, but not brought to the ground. 

At that moment, an opportunistic Alex Mack (the Cleveland Browns’ center) came sprinting towards Owens to receive the lateral.  As he lumbered down the sideline, it looked as if he would be tackled before making it to the end zone.

Roman Harper ran at Mack as he approached the end zone, but Mack ran right through him. 

Mack’s dive as he crossed the goal line was awkward, but funny.  His touchdown revealed something much more than the fact that offensive lineman don’t really know what to do when they score.

With his pants sliding down, the Pro Bowl viewing audience got to see the plumber’s angle of Mack.

While the Pro Bowl wasn’t everything that it was “cracked” up to be, you couldn’t help but "crack-up" watching Alex Mack's touchdown.