Roger Goodell Pro Bowl

Published: February 7, 2016

Roger Goodell Pro Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finally said what we already knew: The Pro Bowl isn’t working.

He could have reached further at Friday’s annual pre-Super Bowl media address. The word “embarrassment” comes to mind. Rather than developing a showcase for stars, the event has devolved into a glorified walkthrough. Now it sadly is a bookend of two things fans hate: preseason games and pre-Super Bowl shame.

But there is hope. Goodell said he is open to new ideas. Here are a few, which could be considered a Pro Bowl booster shot:

Ditch the game. We are growing exponentially smarter about long-term physical consequences of playing football, so it’s irresponsible to ask players to risk themselves in full-contact situations in an exhibition game. The franchises don’t want that, the players don’t want it and fans surely aren’t interested in having stars put into harms way for what amounts to an NFL infomercial.

That doesn’t mean the ceremony of naming Pro Bowlers should stop. That is still an integral part of recognizing accomplishment on the field and popularity within the game. It gives fans a voice and stimulates conversation about some of the best aspects of the NFL. It may not be the same kind of accolade as an All-Pro nod, but it’s the next tier of respect for players who have some mixture of high performance on the field and high visibility amongst fans. Taking that away would be a mistake. The point is to retain the honor, but remove the risk that comes along with fulfilling it.

Herein lies the opportunity.

Use the Pro Bowl platform to showcase the young talent that will make up the NFL’s next wave of stars. Specifically, draw from the league’s pool of rookies and second-year players and create a skills competition similar to a more entertaining NFL scouting combine. Then use those players who received Pro Bowl nods and divide them up into coaching staffs who will guide their “teams” through the competitions. And give the winning teams – and their coaches – a financial award for their victories. Inside all of this, put microphones on everyone and utilize the sound during instant replays of impressive moments.

Sell it to the veterans as a free week in Hawaii for their families, kicking back at the pool between breezy practices where they coach pointers with the youngest players in the game. Plenty of sun and no wear-and-tear on their bodies. And pitch it to rookies and second-year players as an opportunity to glean tips from the best in the profession, as well as a free trip to Hawaii and possible cash winnings for their event.

For the NFL, it would be a three-fold win. First, it gives fans a chance to see the league’s elite players in a more relaxed, personality-driven light. Second, it gives the league a chance to identify and expose younger players who will be the next stars, while also connecting them to a wider football audience. And third, the NFL can use the specific competitions as branding opportunities, generating some advertising dollars along the way.


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