It was obvious that something needed to change with the NFL Pro Bowl, but nobody really knew how they would change it. Some people wanted the league to scrap the game completely because of its poor ratings and lack of enthusiasm from the fans, but that is not at all what they chose to do. I personally think the game is quite boring nowadays because of the fact that so many players choose not to play in it, and of the ones that do, very few even try. That doesn’t really sound like what an all-star game should be. Well Roger Goodell made some changes, but are they the right ones?
There were actually a bunch of changes that the league made to the game, but it no longer sounds like an actual football game. They added a two minute warning to the first and third quarters, and have the ball change hands after every quarter in an attempt to make the game more exciting for fans. Also, they eliminated kickoffs altogether to prevent injuries, and will have the ball start on the team’s own 25-yard line to start a possession. Well, this eliminates the need for a kick returner (sorry to Leon Washington and Jacoby Jones- looks like you won’t be making the Pro Bowl anymore). There’s also no need for a special teams ace, which was always a way for the unsung hero on special teams to make the big game.
Cover two and press coverage are now available for use by defensive coordinators instead of being forced to use man coverage. I think this will add to the strategy of the defenses a little more. It looks like kneel downs are out of the question as well (if they ever were in the question) because the clock will stop after a play if the team doesn’t gain yardage. I guess this means sacking the quarterback in the last two minutes is a lot less important. This clearly is sounding less and less like a football game and more and more like a scoring fest, where defenses get torched on a regular basis. But the biggest change of all is one that completely mixes up the idea of NFC vs. AFC.
Actually, it won’t ever be that way again. The players will still be voted on by the fans, players, and coaches, but their conference won’t matter. The top people at each position will be taken for the game without regard to their conference, meaning the NFC/AFC rivalry is no more. Once all the players are picked, the top two vote getters will enter into a “fantasy draft” type format and will select their teams from the other 84 players available. I actually think this is a great idea, because it will provide new fantasy matchups and teammates that never would’ve happened before (imagine Peyton Manning passing to Calvin Johnson). And the fact that the draft will be televised will generate a lot of excitement from fans, and probably will receive better ratings than the game itself (I know I’d rather watch the draft than the game).
But the one thing that it really comes down to is this: will this make the players try harder? If the answer is no, then no assortment of changes will ever create an exciting Pro Bowl game. It doesn’t matter who they have playing because it will be just as boring as past games. If the new format causes the players to actually try, then of course many more fans will be into it, especially because new things in general tend to excite the fans anyway. Only time will tell, but I’m willing to give this one a shot.