As a long time fan of football, I used to joke that the reason Valentine's Day is on the 14th of February is because it is fresh off of football season and gives men the opportunity to do something big for their lady after five months of absent Sundays. While the Super Bowl may be the most anticipated game of the year, there is also a bittersweet feeling, knowing that this will be the last meaningful football game for another seven months.
Since the Pro Bowl moved to the week prior to the Super Bowl, all participants of the big game are not allowed to play in the Pro Bowl. Sure, this is a good rule, but coincidentally, the Pro Bowl has been so bad the past three seasons that Roger Goddell was strongly considering getting rid of the game. Sandwiching the Pro Bowl between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl has clearly pulled any interest away from what was already a very pointless game to begin with.
NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth proposed what turned out to be a fun and maybe more wacky way to play the Pro Bowl in 2014. Let's get the best players in football together and play an exhibition more like a backyard football game.
While the fans will still get to vote on who will play in the Pro Bowl, it will be without affiliation to the AFC or NFC. It will simply be that the top vote getters, regardless of conference, will be in the "Pro Bowl Free Agent" pool. And guess what fantasy football freaks? The teams will now be drafted, pick by pick, live on NFL Network! Oh boy!!
Oh, it gets better. Two lucky NFL.com fantasy football winners, two top Pro Bowl vote getters, and two Hall of Famers (Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders) will be picking the teams. While it would be awesome to have all of the players in line on the field live being picked just like a backyard football game, I don't see that happening. I hope I'm wrong though...
While the Pro Bowl draft could actually end up being a more viewed event than the Pro Bowl itself, it looks like the NFL is doing all it can to resuscitate a game that is pretty close to dead. I have to admit, I think it will be pretty cool to see who picks who from each team. I haven't watched a Pro Bowl in almost a decade, but I will watch this draft.
Some of the rule changes to the game really make me scratch my head. If you want to see all of the changes, feel free to click this link on NFL.com. I thought I would mention the ones that caught my attention.
(Rule changes in quotes listed below courtesy of the NFL.com link mentioned)
Game within the Game -- A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct "two-minute drills," which are especially exciting for fans.
What? Why? Do we really think that falsely creating 'two minute warning" situations at the end of each quarter will really change the game? If anything, all that is going to happen is that the QB will chunk it even more throughout the game. There were 12 touchdown passes thrown in the 2012 Pro Bowl. I'm not seeing the point of treating the end of quarters like they are end of halves.
No Kickoffs -- The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
Party on Pro Bowl kickers and punters! Go ahead Morstead, order that extra pina colada. You won't be needed much today. It will be like college football overtime, but from the other side of the field. Devin Hester and Leon Washington do not appreciate this.
Rosters -- The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
Hester and Washington take their ball and go home. While I enjoy the special teams part of the game, the NFL has no interest in showcasing this. If anything, the focus is all offense vs
defense eleven guys in a different colored jersey.
Cover Two and Press Coverage -- The defense will be permitted to play "cover two" and "press" coverage. In previous years, only "man" coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
Well it's about damn time. So are we possibly going to see the offenses get challenged again? In each of the past three seasons, the two Pro Bowl teams combined for 95+ points. Again, 12 touchdown passes thrown in the 2012 Pro Bowl. That's just silly numbers.
Stopping of the Game Clock -- Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
My goodness. Is this for real? So to get this straight, not only is the QB in a "two minute drill" situation, but the clock stops if the run or screen pass is a busted play or stopped well by the defense? I assume the 5+ TDs scored by each team the past 3 seasons isn't enough?
What's next? A "five Mississippi" rush? All offensive linemen are always eligible receivers? Take away the first down markers and just say "three completions is a first down"? Let's go true backyard football. Play the game in an empty lot down the block and make "between the Saints cap and Mom's lawn chair" the goal line. Now THAT would be fun to watch.
I am not a fan of the Pro Bowl, but I can appreciate what could be the NFL's last effort in creating interest in a game that can actually be pretty boring to watch. Honestly, I believe that the Pro Bowl draft will help create some buzz about the game. But as far as the product on the field, I don't see how it won't be more of the same. What do you guys think about the Pro Bowl and all of the changes? Are you a traditionalist and hate to see the AFC vs NFC rivalry go or are you ready for some Pro Bowl drafting? Do you wish the Pro Bowl would just go away? While collecting your thoughts, check out the effort on pass defense in last year's Pro Bowl. Wow.