Forgive me. I'm in Afghanistan, it's hot, and I've had an epiphany. Hopefully this doesn't come out all over the place. There are problems with the pro bowl. No one wants to play in it and get hurt. The players that do play in it don't actually play hard. It's like a huge joke. No one even wants to watch it every year. It's to the point that the NFL is thinking of either turning it into a flag football game or just getting rid of it altogether.
I have the answer. It came to me like a bolt of lightning about 5 minutes ago. Just read and give me your feedback, so I know weather I should repost this to SB NATION main page or not.We don't need to scrap the pro bowl, we need to scrap the players. What player wants to risk injury for a game he gets 50k to play in?
The NFL needs to make the Pro Bowl not about the best players you have seen all year. They need to make it about the best players you have not seen all year. Forget about the days of giving a spot to the top QB, RB, etc. Here's my rules for the new Pro Bowl.
1. The pro bowl should be played by practice squad/fringe active roster players.
2. Each team gets 3 slots to vote in their best players, each player on the team and the coach gets a vote, the fans get a vote. The weight of the vote is split 50/50 between fans and coaches and the 3 best practice squad guys get a spot on the Pro Bowl roster. 32 teams x 3 players = 96 roster spots. The remaining 10 or so spots (8) are picked directly by 7 fans in an NFL raffle type system, and 1 by Roger Goddell.
3. The game is not run by division or conference: ie; AFC players on AFC rosters. The roster is set by play style. For example; There must be 1 west coast offensive coordinator, and 1 spread offense coordinator. There must be one defensive coordinator that runs a 3-4 and one that runs a 4-3. The players are assigned to the roster that features what they do best, or the offense/defense they are most comfortable in.
4. QB skills competition, running back gauntlets, wide receiver speed/catching drills are all still part of the weeks festivities leading up to the game. You get to see what the practice squad QB can do in a QB skills competion and weigh it against what someone like Payton Manning, or Jim Kelly did back in the day.
Here's my reasoning for why this will be a hit.
1. Practice squad guys make aproximately 5k a week for the 17 week football season. This is less than 100k a year to be on the practice squad/ scout team. In the pro bowl each player makes 20k if they lose and 40, if they win. If we're complaining about guys not playing hard, here's the answer. 40k represents almost 50% of these guys salaries. This will not be a vanilla game. This will be a hitting, aggressive game that will be fun to watch.
2. How many of us have wondered what certain guys would play like if they were in an actual game? Imagine guys like Demarcus Ganaway, Ricky Sapp, or big Austin Howard being able to show their stuff in a nationally televised game against the best players on other teams.
3. This game would be the 2nd level senior bowl. It's a chance for guys to show that they belong. It's a chance for players to be evaluated again in live game action by coaches, and by us fans watching on tv. For instance, we all read things about how rookie free agent x was brought in after draft x and placed on the practice squad. Then we never hear about player x until he makes the active roster, or is signed by another team. This is a live visual chance to see all the guys that have major talent but still aren't on an active roster. It's a chance to peak behind the curtain, and see what teams are stashing what players on the practice squad/scout team.
4. It creates a secondary free agency market. The pro bowl is played the week between the playoffs and Super Bowl. Practice squad players are free to sign with any team that gives them a guaranteed contract and a roster spot. By playing a pro bowl with your best practice squad guys, it gives every team up to date info on who is really good that can be signed. Imagine for instance if Demarcus Ganaway 6'2 around 200 lbs. and runs a 4.3 goes out and catches 10 passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns in this game. Bare in mind this is a hard hitting, highly competitive football game. The teams lining up to sign him would be out the door and around the block. It would create excitement, and something else to look forward to besides the draft, and free agency period as a way to improve your football team.
5. I can't speak for everyone, but when I watch the Pro Bowl, this is even when it was good and players played real football, I didn't watch it for that 1 specific player. I watched it to see how many players from my team were in the Pro Bowl, and how many did well. I think this type of game would still work, because: A. The players are still representatives of your football franchise. B. They are still professional players. These aren't CFL or Arena league guys. They are on the team, and they are 1 injury from playing on Sundays.
These are just a few of my ramblings, but I think the Pro Bowl can be saved. I think it can be entertaining, and I think it can be good again. If there is one thing we as people are interested in, it is the unknown. We call it potential. I can't think of the last Pro Bowl I really watched, but if this format was implemented I would watch it every year. It would be a chance for fans to see the unknown. It's a chance for players that are barely in the NFL to make a name for themselves and stand out. It's a chance to see something better than a senior bowl, more entertaining and competitive than the current Pro Bowl. Its a chance to have another segment implemented in the NFL season to keep fans interested. It segues well into the draft and free agency. And it provides teams a chance to pluck players they haven't seen in action off of practice squads and plug them into the active roster on any team.
Tell me what you think of the new format. Would you watch the "Futures Pro Bowl"? Who would you vote for if you had to pick 3 players from the practice squad?