Taking a break from training camp for a moment, let's take a look at the changes the NFL just made to the Pro Bowl. Most NFL fans range from indifference to loathing of the NFL's version of an All-Star game. I'd guess I've watched 20 minutes total of the last five Pro Bowls. To me, the NFL version of an All-Star game suffers from some inherent disadvantages that just can't be fixed.
One is the violence of the game. For it to be played right and in a compelling nature, players need to go all out and hit each other, and hit hard. But no one wants to get hurt in the Pro Bowl. It leads to a bastard form of football that isn't very watchable. As a corollary reason, partly because of the violence they have to play it at the end of the year instead of in-season. This leads to apathy from many fans. Also, because of safety issues, the rules are significantly altered to limit blitzes, going in motion, overload formations and a variety of other strategic decisions. Again, this leads to a bastard form of football. Lastly, football is the ultimate team game, it requires intricate design with players working in unison to make things happen. Throwing together a bunch of guys from different teams and systems makes that hard to replicate. It's a dumbed-down version of the game. Other leagues suffer from some of these issues, but not all of them at once and not as severely as the NFL does. Because of this, I don't know that it can ever be truly fixed.
Still, the NFL is determined to try. Today they announced a whole slew of changes to the Pro Bowl. At the top of the list is that there is no more AFC/NFC teams, they will be going to a fantasy style draft. In basic form, the two highest vote-getters, along with two fantasy winners at NFL.com, and Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will form two teams, and they will draft players who were voted in. So one top vote-getter, one fantasy winner and Deion will be one team, the others will form the other team. This draft will be televised.
I'll bet even money that the draft will be more entertaining and draw more of an audience than the game. We'd love to see if someone will choose Peyton Manning over Adrian Peterson. Do you want to draft the best wide receivers early and try to run up the points? Will some system players who have their abilities limited by rule changes in the game drop towards the bottom of the draft? And how about the Mr. Irrelevant in the draft? Will he take some abuse for being the last child picked on the playground? Now that could be interesting.
Also, they will be making these rule changes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rosters - The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- 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.
- 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.
- Game Timing - The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock - A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks - The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
So what do you think? Any interest in this new format? Hit the comments.