[title_box title=”Opinion: Why it is Time to Rethink the Pro Bowl”]
Each year, the NFL holds their version of an All-Star game — known as the Pro Bowl — one week before the Super Bowl. While, in theory, it is great to put together two teams comprised of the best players in professional football to play against one another, there are many problems with the current format.
The first problem is when it is played each year. It should not be played before the Super Bowl. In my proposal, it would be played a week or two afterwards. This is because when it is scheduled beforehand, the best players from the Super Bowl teams are unfairly excluded. If it were moved back, there would be even more talent in the Pro Bowl game, ultimately leading to more excitement. This problem also manifests itself because many of the top players in the league do not play in the Pro Bowl. Whether that is due to their teams being in the Super Bowl, injuries, or just not wanting to play, it is an issue that plagues football’s “All-Star” showcase. Moving the Pro Bowl until after the Super Bowl would help solve some of this problem, but not all of it.
Moving the game back, though allowing more players the opportunity to play, does not answer the number one concern: It doesn’t give the players a reason to care. These games are largely half-effort contests that become uninteresting before halftime. This would be solved if the players had a reason to care and to put forth an effort. However, the NFL can’t — and shouldn’t — take from the most meaningful professional All-Star game (baseball) and make the game determine home field advantage in the Super Bowl. So what can they do? I have a few ideas.
- “Young” vs. “Old”: In borrowing an idea from the NBA, the NFL could structure the Pro Bowl as a showcase between the young guns of the league and the seasoned veterans. They could set the youth squad at five years of experience or less, and the veteran squad at any more than that. It would certainly be a bit more exciting to see the veterans try to show they’re still the best.
- Combine Divisions: Another way the NFL could potentially create more excitement and competitiveness is by using a combined divisions format. They could, for example, take the North and East (AFC and NFC) divisions and have them face off against the South and West divisions (AFC and NFC). This would add a new twist on the game, and perhaps add more enthusiasm to it as well.
- Conditional/Late-Round Draft Picks: Every team loves having lots of draft picks. It’s how a team gets younger and better (if they do it well, anyway). Why not add the incentive of more picks? A team would receive either a conditional or late-round draft pick for every player they have on the winning Pro Bowl squad. This way, players and organizations have incentive to participate and put forth an effort, and it doesn’t mess with the early rounds of the draft.
Regardless of what the NFL does, hopefully they can find some way to make fans and players care about the Pro Bowl in a way similar to how MLB players and fans care about the All-Star game. Otherwise, the Pro Bowl may be heading down the path of the dodo bird: extinction.
Edited by Nathan Odom