Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Pro Bowl is a-Changin'

Since Roger Goodell took over the NFL there has been an ongoing attack on the Pro Bowl.  outdrawn baseball's biggest games.
Apparently, the $9Billion-per-year machine that is the NFL isn't satisfied with the viewership of the league's all-star game-- despite the fact that it has

No, that is not enough for the NFL.  They foolishly tried moving the game away from Hawaii and bumped up the date from the season finale to the penultimate game. Now they're shaking up the entire format of the game.

Moving forward, there will no longer be an AFC vs NFC match up. Teams will be determined in a 'draft style' fashion with Hall of Fame members acting as captains; picking players from both conferences with Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders handling the inaugural responsibilities.

Some other notable changes to the game, per the NFL and NFLPA press release:

» 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.

 I'll be honest-- I can get behind these changes.  It's unfortunate that guys like Leon Washington and Devon Hester, who voiced his displeasure with the changes, will not get recognition for their unique skill sets-- but it will be safer while maintaining the excitement and action. 

I think it's important to remember that the Pro Bowl is, first and foremost, an honor to the games greatest performers of that season. These players have given us their all for 16 games and proved themselves to be among the elite.  So what if it doesn't draw the same ratings as a playoff game?  For as much as people complain about it being 'meaningless'-- they sure draw a lot of eyeballs.

Personally, I enjoy the skills challenges, the old timers games, the players relaxed and easygoing in interviews and the general island atmosphere.  It feels like the after party of the NFL season-- I like that.

The NFL must be careful not to over-saturate the fans appetite for football.  Colin Cowherd once made the argument that a big reason for the NFL's overwhelming popularity is due to the fact that you only get it in small doses. I absolutely agree with that.  It leaves you constantly thirsting for more.  While I'm curious as to how these changes will go over, I still appreciate the Pro Bowl for what it is.

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