Viewership of the Pro Bowl has steadily declined over the past 15 years, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is ready to make changes to the league’s all-star game — including eliminating it. “The [Pro Bowl] game doesn’t work. We need to find another way to celebrate the players,” Goodell said Monday.
Challenge accepted, Roger. Here are our solutions to reviving interest in the Pro Bowl.
5 ways to improve the NFL Pro Bowl
Introduce a few wacky rules
Even among the most ardent of NFL fans, it’s hard to find anyone who truly cares about the result of the Pro Bowl. With a lack of financial incentive and the looming risk of injury, players aren’t interested in giving full effort.
Therefore, there’s no use pretending the Pro Bowl is a traditional football game. It doesn’t matter which team is “better” — the focus should be on entertainment. With that in mind, let’s introduce some zany rules for next year’s game. Each quarter or predetermined game period could have a new twist.
- Make quarterbacks throw with their non-dominant hand for a quarter
- Receivers can only make one-handed catches
- Someone other than a QB must play quarterback for one series
- Big-man touchdowns (OL or DL) count for double
- Offensive players play defense, and defensive players play offense for one quarter
The Pro Bowl already has a Skills Showdown, which includes competitions involving precision passing, best catches, and fastest players. The NFL should keep that in place and lean into the contest aspect even further.
Let’s see offensive linemen compete in a relay race. Bring back the Quarterback Challenge — I’ll watch Josh Allen and Justin Herbert heaving the ball as far as they can any day of the week. Get a slam dunk contest going. Let players run through the minicamp drills from “Madden 03.”
Bring players out of retirement for a flag football game
This idea was suggested by none other than former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Wouldn’t you want to see Daunte Culpepper complete a pass to Tyreek Hill, who then has to evade Takeo Spikes and Champ Baily on the way to the end zone?
Of course, we’ll make it a flag football game, so none of the old guys risk breaking anything. Ochocinco says it would break the Pro Bowl TV ratings, and we tend to agree.
Pros vs. Joes
Everyone knows NFL players are amazing athletes, but unless you’re on field level, it’s hard to get a sense of just how big and fast these guys are. So, let’s have players go up against fans in a Pros vs. Joes competition.
Obviously, a full game wouldn’t work — we don’t need any accountants or plumbers calling in sick on Monday due to a torn Achilles. But we could pit players vs. fans in a few positional drills. Let’s watch a couple of John Q. Publics try to cover Justin Jefferson on a go route.
Get rid of it altogether
This might be the easiest option and the one that Goodell is leaning toward. Viewership for the Pro Bowl was down to 6.7 million earlier this year — a solid number overall but weak for the NFL. The level of interest just doesn’t seem to be there from either the fans or the players.
No financial incentive will likely be enough to turn the Pro Bowl into a competitive game. The current bonuses of $80,000 for winners and $40,000 for losers probably aren’t doing much in a league where the median salary is close to $1 million. The NFL should focus on entertainment (and maybe implement some of our ideas) or eliminate the Pro Bowl altogether.