Should the Pro-Bowl Be Moved Again? By John Brecko
Image via NYJ FB
The Pro Bowl used to be at the final game of the NFL season, taking place after the Super Bowl. However, the last time that has taken place was in 2009. For all of the 2010s and the two years the Pro Bowl has happened in the 2020s, it has taken place the week before the Super Bowl.
The reason for the move is that the Pro Bowl taking place after the Super Bowl was seen as an “anti-climatic” end to the NFL season every year and it is not an argument without merit. In Super Bowl, you are playing for the right to be called “champion” of that specific season. You play for the right to hold the NFL’s most important trophy, the Vince Lombardi trophy. All 32 teams compete for that trophy and only one gets to hold it at the end of each season.
Many teams have held that championship, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers (those four teams have won 21 out of the 54 Super Bowls that have taken place), etc. There are teams that have only won it once in the 50+ year history of NFL’s championship game, including the Chicago Bears, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Philadelphia Eagles, etc.
Cities throw parades and celebrate in the streets when their team wins the Lombardi trophy. I can tell you from personal experience that the city of brotherly love lost its mind when the Eagles won Super Bowl 52, defeating the New England Patriots by a score of 41-33.
Fans flocked the streets, drank all night and posted viral videos of doing things that should have gotten them arrested, such as tearing down flags off of public property and tipping over cars (it is no secret that Philadelphia fans are lunatics).
Me personally…I drove out to Philadelphia with three friends and got a cheesesteak. It was a fun time.
Just throw this out there, nothing will beat Kevin Hart putting confetti in his pocket and swearing on national television. It was a great day for a city starved of NFL Championship glory for 58 years.
There are also teams that have been to multiple Super Bowls and have never won, including the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills. The latter of those two teams went to four straight championships and failed to win every time they got to the NFL’s most important game (not the Pro Bowl obviously).
There are even teams that have never been to a Super Bowl, showing how difficult the journey is. Examples of this are the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns (even if their future looks brighter than past years), and the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans. The final team mentioned has never even been to a conference championship game (they do not look like they will be going there in the near future with Deshaun Watson unhappy in that city either).
All of this shows the glory that comes with playing in and winning the Super Bowl. The same cannot be said for the Pro Bowl.
The question to ask now is, “What is on the line in the Pro Bowl?” The answer is…nothing. It is just the team’s best players going out onto the field one more time for fun. On top of this game having no meaning for the players involved, players that have been selected, but are playing in the Super Bowl the following week no longer participate so they do not risk injury.
This is one reason why the game should be moved back to after the Super Bowl, so all the picks for that game can take part in it and they can all play as hard as they want. With no steaks, there is a limit to how competitive the game will truly be, but this is better than a lackluster game without some of the original picks for the Pro Bowl even participating.
The NFL’s viewership for this game has suffered as well and this game is not viewed in high regard by the fanbase. The Associated Press actually wrote about the Pro Bowl in 2012 and equated the hits being delivered in the game to a “pillow fight”. If you have ever watched the Pro Bowl, I am sure you have seen the lack of effort from the players involved.
The NFL has implemented strategies to try to increase the viewership. The league has talked about hosting the game outside of the United States and skill competitions have been implemented since 2017 and in the past as well. A famous “Strongest Man” competition was done in 2006 where players took part in a bench competition with 225 lbs on the bar. This is consisted of Larry Allen setting a mark so high that after a few attempts from the players after him, the final few players just gave up.
That might sound funny when typed and explained, but fans came out to see a competition and the lack of effort shown during the time it is taking place, does not actually help the NFL and it makes fans feel like they just wasted their time in coming to see this.
Since 2017, there have been passing competitions, dodgeball and other ways that players compete against each other. These are good ideas, but unless the quality of the game itself improves, the Pro Bowl will still be looked at as a meaningless game where no one gives effort and why should fans tune in to see that?
Why not give extra draft picks to the conference who wins or offer players on the winning conference a bonus? Limit the bonus to players who actually played during the game if you want, but if these actions are taken, it may change the opinion of the fanbase that looks down on this game.
Whether these actions are taken or not, it will not change viewership for the regular season or the playoffs either way, but it will give us fans one more aspect to football that we can enjoy. Just a thought…