Let’s be honest, folks, the NFL has the worst All-Star game. There are no stakes, the players are rarely the league’s actual All-Stars, and in a league that dominates the American television ratings, people just don’t watch it. I have chosen to watch the WWE’s Royal Rumble pay per view every year for the last four years instead… because it’s a more legitimate sporting event.
But I don’t think it has to be that way. I think there’s a way we can fix the Pro Bowl. Here’s how.
How To Fix the Pro Bowl
What I Like
The NFL has actually made some progress at improving their all-star game by bringing the skills contests back. This should continue. There should be 100 yard dashes, pitting people like Tyreek Hill against Henry Ruggs III or Marquise Goodwin. I want to see Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen (Ha! Josh Allen making the Pro Bowl) throwing the ball as far as they can. I liked the teams playing dodgeball as well. Maybe bring other silly sports like Ultimate Frisbee or Pool Basketball in as well. The NFL has great athletes, why not see what they can do off the gridiron?
I also like doing away with the NFC vs. AFC aspect and bringing in team captains. With superstars swapping squads so often, it’s not like there’s conference pride or anything, so with team captains, there’s an increase in superstar team-up diversity.
That’s about it. Let’s talk about what I don’t like.
The Vetting Process
My biggest issue with the Pro Bowl? It fails miserably at the most fundamental level. The Pro Bowl is supposed to be an All-Star game… but it rarely has the league’s All-Stars, for three reasons.
Firstly, they opt out. This is the most understandable reason, as football is a violent game. Even in a half-speed scrimmage, injuries happen, and as a professional athlete, your body is your career. If they don’t want to risk an injury over a game that doesn’t matter? That’s perfectly fine.
Secondly, they play it the week before the Super Bowl. That means that participants in the Super Bowl can’t play. Now sure, there’s 32 NFL teams, so even if you take the best two away, there are plenty of other incredible players that can step up. But still, in a genuine, bonafide All-Star game, you want… ya know… the All-Stars. If we ever end up in another situation like the Patriot Dynasty, where the league’s best player, Tom Brady, is absent for 20 years because he’s preparing for the Super Bowl?
And finally, this is the most egregious reason the Pro Bowl flops, the selection process is horribly stupid. I am merely a fan myself, so I can’t pretend I’m better than anyone else, but… most fans are not qualified to pick All-Stars. Having fans vote to pick who makes the Pro Bowl, like they aren’t just going to vote for their favorite players, is how Peyton Hillis ended up on the cover of Madden. Here are some examples of iffy “All-Stars” that have been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Some positions are tough to judge. Offensive linemen don’t really register stats, some defensive linemen eat blockers to free up other defenders, and the best corners are never targeted. However, there’s one position, quarterback, that is high-profile and easier to spot an outlier than others.
- Kordell Stewart, 2001- 3,109 yards (17th), 14 passing touchdowns (22nd), 11 interceptions.
- Vince Young, 2006- 2,199 yards (26th), 12 passing touchdowns (22nd), 13 interceptions (13th).
- Kerry Collins, 2008- 2,676 passing yards (24th), 12 passing touchdowns (25h), seven interceptions.
- Vince Young AGAIN, 2009- 1,879 passing yards (27th), 10 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions.
- Andy Dalton, 2011- 3,398 passing yards (16th), 20 passing touchdowns (14th), 13 interceptions (15th).
- Derek Carr, 2017- 3,496 passing yards (14th), 22 passing touchdowns (13th), 13 interceptions (eigth).
- Mitchell Trubisky, 2018- 3,223 yards (20th), 24 passing touchdowns (15th), 12 interceptions (12th).
And those are just the ones I remember.
I’ll admit, I liked the old Pro Bowl set-up. Everyone went to Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl, and they had live daily coverage. The Super Bowl players were there, superstars had fun banter, and it served as a nice, come-down after the Super Bowl before the long, arduous off-season. Now, the Super Bowl ends, and that’s it, the season’s over.
If the Super Bowl has an anti-climactic ending, that’s the taste the NFL leaves in our mouths for six months. It’s like coffee and ice cream after dinner. It helps us all wind down.
How I’d Fix It
Firstly, get rid of the fan vote. I know that sounds horrible, because we all love fan participation, but we’re not as qualified as players and coaches are. Even the NFL 100, which players allegedly vote on, is flawed, but we’ve gotta cut the fat of fans voting ironically or for their favorite players over the best players objectively. It might seem silly, but if Pro Bowls count towards Hall of Fame candidacy, we need to tighten our grip on the voting procedures.
Secondly, move it back to the Sunday after the Super Bowl. You can do media day on the Sunday before, or do live interviews. Announce the upcoming Hall of Famers, but don’t shoehorn the Pro Bowl in there just because. It’s the NFL playoffs, fans can go one Sunday without football. Plus, technically, it makes the off-season one week shorter.
And finally, why not bring the game back to beautiful Hawaii, have a silly all-star game where the result doesn’t matter to anyone, and they’re just along for the ride? The game ends, everyone’s having fun, and then we can look toward the mystery of free agency and the draft.
All I have to say, NFL, is that if you decide to heed my advice and fix your all-star game… please call it “The Bro Bowl.”