Report: NFL Considering Eliminating Pro Bowl Game; League Mulling Alternative Events

Adam WellsMay 24, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 06:  Kyle Pitts #8 of the Atlanta Falcons and NFC celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the AFC during the fourth quarter of the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on February 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-35.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After being the butt of many jokes for years, the NFL Pro Bowl in its current form may not exist for much longer. 

Per Mark Maske of the Washington Post, NFL officials and team owners discussed possibly eliminating the Pro Bowl during the annual owners meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday. 

Maske noted the league would still look to maintain an event, perhaps a seven-on-seven competition with no tackling, during the week off between the conference title games and Super Bowl if it drops the Pro Bowl.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added the NFL could use that Sunday as a way to showcase players who are voted to the Pro Bowl without holding an actual game. 

It's a recurring bit every single year from certain pockets of NFL fandom about how unwatchable the Pro Bowl is, though it remains a success in the ratings. 

The 2022 Pro Bowl did the lowest viewership number for the game in 16 years at 6.7 million. 

While that doesn't sound like a great indicator of popularity, the most-watched primetime network show on May 22 was 60 Minutes with 7.48 million viewers. No other show broke 6 million viewers. 

The quality of play in the Pro Bowl is absolutely worth interrogating for the NFL. It's an exhibition game with nothing at stake coming at the end of a long season, especially for players whose teams were also in the playoffs, so no one is interested in tackling anyone. 

JJ Watt @JJWatt

I’ve seen walk-thrus more intense than this 😂<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowl?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowl</a>

Chad Johnson @ochocinco

They got try a little bit in the Pro Bowl c’mon nah‼️

Plus, there's also the inherent risk of going full bore in a game with no stakes. Players presumably don't want to risk hurting themselves or another player, especially if it might impact them going into the next season. 

There is probably a happy medium between playing the Pro Bowl at full intensity and only taking part in the game to get a free trip to the city where it's being held. 

Whatever direction the NFL might take with the game, people are going to watch. They might not watch at the same level they once did, but they are going to tune in either out of loyalty to the league or curiosity to see how bad the action can get.