The National Football League (NFL) All-Star Game, more commonly known as the Pro Bowl, is an annual event held by the NFL featuring the league’s star players.
The format has changed over the years. Originally a contest between the league’s champion against a team of star players from other teams, the contest evolved into a matchup of the top players from the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). That was the format until 2013, where for a three-year window (2014-2016), the NFL experimented with a format where the two teams were selected by Hall of Fame “captains.” In this format, players were picked in a televised draft before the game.
So, what happened?
Unfortunately, the Pro Bowl has long suffered from a lack of interest due to the low-quality nature of the game itself. With concerns about potential injuries to star players, the game itself often featured minimal tackling and effort from players to preserve their bodies from potential harm. As a result, fan interest in the game waned.
In 2022, the NFL announced a new format for the Pro Bowl. That format was a flag football (non-contact) contest between the two teams, as well as a series of events dubbed the “Pro Bowl Games,” including non-football activities such as dodgeball.
Not only were the 2023 Pro Bowl games widely panned, but a star player was injured regardless. Browns star pass rusher Myles Garrett is believed to have suffered a dislocated toe during the “obstacle course” portion of the games.
For me, seeing the Pro Bowl turned into a bunch of non-football-related activities was effectively the nail in the coffin for the event. It went from legitimate football to softer football to literal flag football. Skill competitions may work for basketball and ice hockey All-Star games, but I’m not interested in a passing accuracy competition in football.
What happens during the NFL’s Pro Bowl weekend is hardly football anymore, so my solution? Stop trying.
The most important facet of NFL games is that the players and coaches take those games seriously. The issue with the Pro Bowl is the game itself has become a joke. There’s no competitive fire. Fans have no interest in a meaningless game. For me, the Pro Bowl just doesn’t work anymore.
There’s not really a clear solution to the problem, though. The NFL will always want something in that time slot. My recommendation?
Get a group of Hall of Fame players and coaches together to talk football for an hour or two. With nothing but the Super Bowl left in the NFL season, I’d love to hear guys like Ray Lewis, Shannon Sharpe, Jerry Rice, Marshall Faulk, Mike Singletary, and others talk about the game. Maybe they want to talk about the most recent NFL season. Maybe they’d like to discuss crazy moments from their careers.
Anything would be better than watching Ravens QB Tyler Huntley in the Pro Bowl. Huntley isn’t a top-4 QB in his own division, and he’s not the top QB on the Ravens. So let’s replace Huntley with some commentary from the Manning brothers or Drew Brees.
Imagine a live 30-for-30 scenario where you bring back some of the stars of previous Super Bowl winners. Those players can then talk about their experiences.
A football chat at the end of the football season beats whatever the Pro Bowl has become.
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