Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Jan 2012

Pro Bowl is Missing a Skills Competition

How would you fix the Pro Bowl? Would you even want it to be played in the first place? A skills competition doesn't seem like it'd add much, but it would at least be something different to watch.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 30 Jan 2012

75 comments, Last at 02 Feb 2012, 11:40pm by Mash Wilson

Comments

1
by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:23pm

I say eliminate the game altogether. Especially with its placement the week before the Superbowl, it's pointless. I suppose we can keep the voting, etc. so that players that have Pro Bowl incentives in their contracts won't be messed up. But ditch the game.

4
by Jimmy :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:45pm

Yup, just junk it. Normally I would say that football is as competitive as professional sports get but the Pro Bowl is the opposite. t isn't suprising that is isn't compelling.

2
by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:31pm

Wait... didn't they already have that, and get rid of it? I know I've seen something like a skills competition before on NFL Network.

3
by ctr (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:40pm

robert edwards might disagree

13
by Dean :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:06pm

That was my first thought as well.

24
by Annnnonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:22pm

Robert Edwards wrecked his knee screwing around on a beach at the Pro Bowl, not in any kind of seriously organized event.

They were tossing a ball around for cameras on the sand.

Anyone who's ever done something like that is not surprised someone got hurt, and it has no relation to a 'skills competition', which might actually be interesting.

The only good part of the pro bowl in my experience is the legends flag football game which tends to be hilarious.

29
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:34pm

Actually Edwards blew out his knee in the annual "Rookie Flag Football" event, which was held on a beach for some reason. So it was organized, although it was not explicitly a skills competition.

33
by Anonnnnnnnnnnnnnymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:31pm

A good point!

I just remembered sand being a pretty prominent component in what happened.

5
by Willy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:45pm

See: http://deadspin.com/5873045/we-simulated-the-nfl-white-vs-black-race-bow...

Who wouldn't secretly be excited for this? The dominance of the O-line blocked for Rodgers/Brady/Brees and their scrappy defenders up against the frightening defense led by Ray Lewis, Revis, and Ed Reed, and then the scrappy defense led by Edelman versus a spotty O-line and the monsters Fitzgerald, Wallace, and Megatron.

MUST. WATCH. TV.

17
by BJR :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:24pm

So you've got converted safeties playing CB, and replacement level players playing S, trying to cover Megatron and Larry Fitz? I'm predicting a blowout.

21
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:48pm

Steltz isn't even the best white safety on the Bears, I'm guessing that this is based on Madden ratings which lag behind things like properly rating rookies though.

26
by Willy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:25pm

Obviously, that's where disagreements arise, but then this is where the Pro Bowl balloting comes in to play! Who does TMQ like as the best Caucasian secondary? We already know he loves his scrappy undrafted free agent scrap heap, so this would be perfect!

28
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:28pm

The answer to all questions is Julian Edelman

25
by Willy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:22pm

But see, you don't know how the offensive line is going to hold up--if I were BB, I'd just blitz and force Cam or Michael Vick to throw on the run. And you'd have Rodgers/Brady/Brees throwing to Gronk/Welker/Jordy Nelson with some HOF linemen protecting them. Would you not be entertained?!

27
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:27pm

Players of mixed parentage will almost always get thrown in the "black" category.

6
by nuk :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:46pm

I want to see how these football guys do in other sports. Get them to volunteer blindly, then randomly assign them to play basketball, ping-pong, or lacrosse.

41
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:52pm

I know he's 75, but I'd still want Jim Brown on my lacrosse team.

48
by Marko :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:21pm

That sounds something like the old Superstars competition. The events were individual. My favorite event to watch was the obstacle course. It also was fun to watch the swimming and rowing competitions, especially if the competitor was utterly incompetent at the event.

7
by jbramley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:47pm

Turn it into flag football (might as well remove the pretense that it's tackle). Add in something like the Madden cheat cards (certain plays and conditions could reward the team with a cheat card to use later in the game). Require trick plays on third downs (might as well have a lot of fun out there).

20
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:40pm

I don't think you even need to have cheat cards if you do it right.

I'm definitely on board with the flag football idea, especially because they already have rules set up. Make it, say, 5-on-5 ... assign a QB to each team (there could be more than two teams), and then draw the other players randomly. (By position, player-by-player, whatever.)

No matter what the replacement is, what they have now needs to go. The pretense of a full-contact exhibition game is ridiculous. They don't even play real exhibition games with their own teams. Hell, it'd be better to watch the players have a Madden tournament then play semi-real football.

74
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 8:40pm

Don't even give every team a QB. Pick the pro bowl, say 50 players each conference. Then randomly split them into groups of 5, for a straight knock out competition. I'd watch that.

I like the idea in the article of letting random people try against the Pros. The roster should have a certain amount of players, and then twice that of normal people who win draws for donations to charities or something. They get to train with the teams for the week, and there's a rule that you have to have a minimum of them out there on each play, and a minimum of them playing QB (and throwing the ball). That'd be fun, and it'd give loads of people chances to tell stories.

"Me? At the weekend? Oh, I intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in the Pro Bowl."

8
by battlered90 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:50pm

Skills competition is the only thing worth having. A 50% effort football game is not fun to watch. But why don't they one on one or two on two drills. Make it more like the dunk contest. RB and OL against two LB. QB and WR against timed pass rush and DB. QB targets competition. WR juggs machine competition. RB agility competition. You could also have other events marginally or not related to football. Golf skins game, olympic relay race, Jeopardy or Family Feud type game show, poker tournament, etc. This would be way more entertaining and would help market the players and the league.

9
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:56pm

I miss seeing the Bench Press Competition. It at least gave us an informal answer to the question "Who is the NFL's Strongest Man?", and now that Larry Allen is retired, I'm curious who the champ would be.

If you're going to follow the NBA Dunk COntest format, though, then you'd want to invite players for the skills competition who didn't necessarily make the Pro Bowl.

10
by apbadogs :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 12:59pm

No. What it's missing is an actual game with players at least attempting to LOOK like they are trying. What happened yesterday was a sham and all the fans should get their money back. I get nobody wants to get hurt but those players should be embarrassed. Of course, they don't care...they and their families got a trip to Hawaii and they all probably got a nice check for going to the "Pro Bowl". What a joke. Just cancel the game. Still pick guys for the Pro Bowl, let them collect their bonuses, but don't insult us by trotting out that dog puke of a "game".

30
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:38pm

I don't get how this is "insulting" to us as fans. For those who actually attend in person-- I think the main reason to do that is to take a trip to Hawaii and enjoy a festive atmosphere with some of the NFL's great players in attendance and somewhat accessible, not because anyone is psyched up for a top-tier athletic contest. For those watching at home...I really don't get it. Did you clear your Sunday night calendar in the weeks leading up to yesterday in anticipation of a battle for the ages? In a game where the outcome means nothing and in a sport where serious competition entails TREMENDOUS injury risk?

Really baffles me why people get angry about the effort level in a Pro Bowl. IT'S THE PRO BOWL! I agree the game and the weekend overall might be more entertaining if it was rethought, but I certainly don't understand outrage and claims of being "insulted."

37
by jsa (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:03pm

I agree mostly. I think in many ways this is a solution in search of a problem.

Yes, it would be nice if the Pro Bowl weekend were more interesting, but it really does not affect my interest in football. The same can be said for all major sports' all-star games.

That said, I'd move the Pro Bowl back to the week after the Super Bowl. I'd have slightly more interest in watching if it were the final football-like event for the next 6 months than now where it fills the gap before the Super Bowl.

And I agree with the article that a skills compeition would make things slightly more interesting

72
by arias :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 3:56am

Okay, that's all fine and good. But why even televise such an anticlimactic, meaningless snooze-fest and present it like it's a game at all? Given the entire premises of the best players in the game actually competing against one another is a farce why even put on a show where they go through the motions under the half-pretense that they are?

Of course, the answer is because of ratings and that advertisers will actually pay money to advertise in that schlep.

And it's because of those ratings that it was moved to the week before the Super Bowl instead of its proper place as the irrelevantly after. THAT's what I find insulting ... their attempt of force feeding the audience a farce. Why not making it entertaining? If you entertain the public, you can charge more for ads and everyone's happy.

70
by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 12:25am

I'd vote for giving the fans' money back if you could find a single one who attended purely for the game. (Sound of crickets chirping)

11
by MJK :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:00pm

It wouldn't be a Pro-Bowl, per se, but what I've always wanted to see is a game where you take the best UNITS from each conference and play them against each other.

So you make a team composed of the best offense and the best defense in each conference. This year it would be Green Bay's or New Orleans' offense paired with San Fancisco's defense, versus the Patriots' offense paired with Baltimore's (or maybe Houston's) defense.

And you'd have to do a real, no-holds barred game...not the silly limiting rules the Pro-Bowl uses. And you'd have to do it after the SB, so that SB bound teams wouldn't go easy to protect their players...

12
by apbadogs :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:00pm

And the NHL all star game is just as bad.

14
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:06pm

Get rid of the game, and hold a skills competition, at the site of the Super Bowl, as a fan participation event. Catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers. Throw a pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Block a bull rush from Justin Smith. Sell tickets to fan participants, with money to charity, like a college fund for the kids of the guy who was bullrushed by Justin Smith.

36
by Marko :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:55pm

Go to a bar with Plaxico Burress. Ride a motorcycle with Ben Roethlisberger or Kellen Winslow. Take PEDs with someone who failed a drug test. Be a gunner and try to run down the sidelines past Sal Alosi without being tripped. A few years ago, you could have taken a boat ride with the Minnesota Vikings.

As for the game itself, I think it should be eliminated. I only watch it to verify that no players on my favorite team get injured.

43
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:08pm

That Vikings boat ride woulda' sold out in two minutes. Personally, I'd volunteer to stand in for Tom Brady at a lingerie fitting.

47
by dryheat :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:20pm

Are you suggesting that you'd rather get involved in multiple collisions with Gisele than the Giants' front seven?

49
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:21pm

Not as fast as a trip to Amsterdam with Ricky Williams.

52
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 6:40pm

I've always wondered what kind of lingerie Brady wears...

55
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 7:09pm

And is it better or worse than Namaths?

39
by MJK :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:11pm

I think most fans would rather catch a pass from Rodgers, or throw a pass to Fitzgerald, than try to block a bull rush from Justin Smith...

42
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:05pm

Whatta' bunch of babies......

45
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:18pm

How about getting blindsided by Hines Ward? It wouldn't even be an event - you buy tickets, and sometime in the next twelve hours, Hines Ward just kind of lurks and drills you as you get up to go to the bathroom or something.

And as you get up, Roy Williams comes around and horsecollars you.

50
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:42pm

The ultimate reality t.v. show!

64
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 11:28am

Ward's just trying to do female football fans a favour - Roethlisberger's in that bathroom.

60
by jebmak :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 10:40pm

Honestly? I think that it would be more interesting to try to block him. More painful? Yes. Completely futile? Yes. But, it sounds more interesting than just playing catch.

68
by apbadogs :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 3:42pm

I would venture to guess 99.9% of average Americans would get their hands broke trying to catch a pass, a hard pass, from Rodgers or any other NFL QB. In high school one of our coaches played QB at a Division II college school, believe he was drafted by the Jets (this would've been late 70's or so) and nobody could catch him. Still, that (catching passes from Rodgers) would be fun to see!

71
by Intropy :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 1:25am

I would take that wager.

73
by Nathan :: Wed, 02/01/2012 - 4:11pm

99.9% huh? What's that, 1 out of every 1000 average Americans would NOT have their hands broken. I will also take that bet.

75
by Mash Wilson :: Thu, 02/02/2012 - 11:40pm

Obvious exaggeration but he has a valid point. I knew a guy back in the day that had a strong arm for a high school QB, strong enough to be well known around the local high school district but not strong enough to be recruited by anybody in D1 (much less NFL-worthy). I personally saw two different people break fingers catching his passes in sandlot games. He was kind of like Jeff George--more interested in showing off his arm strength than throwing catchable passes.

Anyhow, if you're not good at catching footballs you can definitely get your hands/fingers injured by a hard pass, and by "hard pass" I don't mean anywhere near Aaron Rodgers level.

15
by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:07pm

I would scrap it, but I assume the NFL makes money from selling the TV rights so I wouldn't scrap it if I were them.

It is a huge joke and waste of time, but the NFL is a business. The only way to make it go away is to stop watching it.

I did my part and ignored the whole thing, did you?

16
by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:12pm

Nope, and I freely admit actually enjoying myself.

40
by DGL :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:52pm

I turned it off after the NFC's first rushing play, due to the absolutely farcical lack of effort from anyone on either side of the LOS. Went back to it three or four times over the rest of the night for a quick cheap laugh, but that's it.

53
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 6:43pm

I made it through the 1st quarter, but was already burned out from the NHL all-star game. It was a shame, too, because I missed seeing Cam Newton get sacked, intercepted three times, and outplayed by Andy Dalton.

18
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:24pm

Why eliminate it? Sure, the level of effort is a joke, and the special Pro Bowl rules are sort of silly. But having the game occur doesn't hurt anything - if you don't think it's interesting, don't watch it.

Personally, I sort of enjoy seeing Ben Roethlisberger throw to A.J. Green, or Aaron Rodgers throw to Larry Fitzgerald. It's also interesting to see Ray Lewis banter on the sideline with James Harrison. As long as you take the game for what it is, and not a serious game at 100% effort, then it can be fun.

31
by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:56pm

I agree. I enjoyed watching the Pro Bowl last night for what it was, and I thought all of the goofy onside kicks and 4th down tries that you'd never see in a real game were fun, too.

19
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:25pm

The most awesome thing ever is betting on the NFL Pro Bowl. I mean, watching it is quite the hoot when you have money riding on it.

56
by BJR :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 7:09pm

Particularly when you can back one team at +150 like last night. Nice price on a coin toss.

57
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 7:25pm

Or 195. I agree that the line made no sense, especially with someone like Newton (who doesn't fit the all-pro mold that well) playing a substantial amount of time.

What was up with the onside kicks though? The Green Bay staff have so many on the game?

I do have to thank Clay Matthews though for that Supper Happy Terrific lateral in the first half. Not sure if the AFC is recovering down 21!

58
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 7:26pm

So many = some money. Not sure how that happened.

And about Newton, not saying he isn't deserving, just that his skill set doesn't fit well in this game.

67
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 2:28pm

It sure seems like betting the over is a safe bet. What was the number for this year's game, a little over 70?

22
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:13pm

The Pro Bowl suffers even more from being sandwiched between the Championship games and the Super Bowl. I know they wanted to take advantage of people's desire for football during that week, but we just saw four good teams go at each other tooth and nail, in tough, hard-hitting games, both of which were decided on the final play.

And after that, we're supposed to be satisfied with the Pro Bowl?

23
by David Mazzotta :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 2:17pm

Choose sides like they do in the NHL. That'll put a chip on the shoulder of a number of players. They might actually play hard.

32
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:08pm

The players on the winning team in the Pro Bowl should get a voucher to nullify the results of one failed drug test. Guys would be snipping off their fingers like Ronnie Lott to win.

34
by solarjetman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:43pm

Madden tournament.

61
by Dean :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 9:53am

Yawn.

35
by Cro-Mags (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 3:55pm

Rock & Jock Pro-Bowl?

38
by holden.lewis@gm... :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 4:07pm

I would watch a skills competition called "Jack Up the Dummy."

Baseball has the home run derby and basketball has the slam dunk contest. Why not have an NFL concussion-giving contest? Get a test crash dummy equipped with concussion-sensing telemetry in the head. Stand the dummy on the 50-yard line. Let defensive backs, defensive ends and linebackers compete to see who can deliver the biggest concussion to the dummy.

You're welcome, NFL! Please send me a check for a million dollars.

44
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:09pm

I was out there once for work during the Pro Bowl. The best thing I saw was the fat linemen riding around Honolulu on those little scooter bikes they rent to tourists. I'd propose a "Cannonball Run" type race around Oahu.

46
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 5:19pm

On Segways.

51
by jsa (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 6:07pm

Borrow baseball's idea. Can't make the winner the home team for the Super Bowl, so the winning conference automatically wins the coin toss of the next year's Super Bowl. Now that will get the players to take the game seriously!

54
by batbatt :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 7:07pm

You could have one of the lower deck sections be the designated the "fan participant" section. In the second half, if the coach gets fed up with the level of effort, he can call on some of the fans to play in the game.

59
by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 8:37pm

I honestly skipped most of the comments (in case it was answered), but I want to know why the one we DID have is no more?! (Odd the article doesn't mention this) I LOVED watching the competitions(the joking, the trash talking, the bumbles/screw-ups guys made in the drills). Same with the annual QB competitions -- does the players association (& agents) think these things are too risky injury wise??

62
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 10:13am

Chess game using real NFL players as pieces.

63
by Independent George :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 10:58am

Pie eating contest.

65
by Jesus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 11:54am

I think the Pro Bowl is / was irrelevant.
However, my 9 year old couldn't wait to watch it for the first time. The concept that the best players were there and competing - AFC vs NFC.. he was really excited. Of course televising it until past 10pm meant he could only watch the first half but he really enjoyed it. He too noticed a lack of effort, but I explained that isn't the point & he enjoyed it.
So forget about us, the fanatics and pundits, etc. And keep in mind that that the kids really like it. I know, I know most of them have had repeated concussions from playing football at an early age... and their perceptions are pretty much meaningless... but still, think of the children.

66
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 12:03pm

You know, I really don't care about the game, if a few 9 year olds can enjoy it, I'm fine with that. Just don't ask me to care about it.

69
by Theo :: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 6:47pm

Just make it a 6 on 7 (flag football) game.
That's what it is already.
[edit]
Oh wait, that's disrespectful to linemen. Just leave it as it is then.