Photo courtesy of Getty Image
Lorenzo Alexander and Travis Kelce accpet the Pro Bowl trophy for AFC.
Robert Leveille, Assistant Sports Editor
The NFL has struggled making it’s Pro-Bowl relevant for decades, and this year is no different.
The NFL can learn from other leagues in order to make the Pro-Bowl exciting and entertaining again. The players who are invited to play in the game are voted on by the fans; however, an invitation to the Pro-Bowl is simply a bargaining chip for future contract negotiations for players.
Here are five ways the NFL can fix the Pro-Bowl:
Improve the game by giving players an incentive to play well.
Recently, the product the league puts on the field resembles more of a pillow fight than it does a football game. It is understandable: the game is played the week prior to the Super Bowl, and many of the players are coming off grueling seasons. To improve the product, the league should give the players more incentive to win. The winners of this year’s game will take home $64,000, while the losers take home $34,000. The league’s least-payed players take home $27,000 after a week’s worth of work during the regular season. Most players in the Pro-Bowl are the league’s best.
Essentially, the Pro-Bowl is chump change. In order to give the players more incentive to win, the league should pay the winners more and the losers less. Pay the winners $75,000 and the losers $10,000.
Improve the team rosters by playing the game later.
Alex Smith started the game this year for the American Football Conference, known as the league’s best game managing quarterback. Smith’s 15 touchdown passes during the regular season was far from an all-star performance.
Players are currently allowed to skip the Pro-Bowl if they’re playing in the Superbowl, rehabilitating an injury or if they played in their respective conference championship game. Tom Brady has missed every Pro-Bowl since 2004; over the last 13 years he’s been invited to 11 games. The league should move the game to the spring during the NFL draft. Not only would this allow players from the Superbowl to attend, it would allow the players to recover from injuries.
Make winning the game mean something.
Aside from the disparity in the game check, losing the game doesn’t sting. The NFL should make losing the game result in dire consequences. The MLB makes their All-Star Game more competitve by awarding the winning conference home field advantage in the World Series. The NFL should do the same. Whichever conference wins the Pro-Bowl, the NFL should allow the conference’s respective team to host the Superbowl the following year.
Make the skills competition relevant.
This year the NFL implemented its first skills competition leading up to the game. While the skills competition was a step in the right direction, the competitions didn’t necessarily show off the skills relevant in football. Aside from quarterbacks hitting moving targets, not many audience members care about receivers catching balls from drones and a game of dodgeball. The NHL’s skill competition is as exciting as their All-Star game, because it displays the skills required to be great at the game.
The NFL needs to competitions that showcase its stars’ skill sets, skills such as sideline and one handed catches, long field goals, accurate punts, speed and hits.
Make the game more difficult by challenging the coaches.
The NFL should change the rules of the game in order to force the coaches to abandon conservative play calling. They should also prevent teams from punting unless they are inside their own 20-yard line and attempting field goals less than 60 yards. This would force teams to go for it on the fourth down and showcase the skills of the best kickers and punters in the game. After all, special teams players are football players, too. Eliminate the point after touchdown and force the teams to go for two-point conversions. Eliminate touchbacks on kickoffs, forcing players to play out one of the most exciting plays in the game.
The NFL needs to take action to make the Pro-Bowl exciting and relevant again. Its current state is nothing but a glorified flag football game.