It may seem out of my character to brag in my articles, but I do think this one deserves some pre-completion praise. Why might I be tooting my own horn so loudly? I believe I have solved the problem with the NFL’s Pro Bowl dilemma. After watching the NBA All-Star Weekend, it is easy to see how such an event can be more successful in the NFL.
The current issue with the NFL Pro Bowl is that there is nothing to play for. When there is nothing to play for, you get a crappy football game that is high scoring but ultimately devoid of any real talent on display.
Just ask Aaron Rodgers about the skill level shown at this year’s Pro Bowl.
So how do you create something to play for?
Since the Super Bowl location is decided years in advance, home-field advantage for the winning team is out of the question. Home-field advantage is what is on the line in both the NBA All-Star Game and the MLB All-Star Game.
Since that is off the table, I think the NFL should make draft position the incentive. If you make team management care about the Pro Bowl, you will get the players to care about the Pro Bowl.
So, how can this be done?
Currently, the draft lineup is decided by the overall win-loss records of the 32 NFL teams. The playoffs also contribute to the final draft positions of teams that make them.
The NFL should take the two conferences, the AFC and the NFC, and seed the teams in each conference 1-to-16, according to overall records, including playoffs. The conferences would then alternate in the draft according to their seeding, the 1s going first and so on and so forth.
Thus, the purpose of the best talent in the draft going to the worst teams would still be met. However, this also allows for the Pro Bowl to have purpose.
The winner of the Pro Bowl would decide which of the two conferences got to go first in each pairing of seeds in the following April’s draft. Thus, each conference would have the opportunity to improve the draft position of each of its teams by at least one spot.
Management would be forced to make incentives for its players to play hard in the Pro Bowl, and the players would play harder to achieve those incentives.
Furthermore, the NFL should add more skill competitions to Pro Bowl Weekend, much like the Home-Run Derby, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and the skills challenges of the other major sports’ all-star festivities.
That way, teams that do not have a lot of Pro Bowlers would still have the opportunity to be well represented.
How exciting would it be to see running backs racing against each other or quarterbacks in a throwing competition? The Pro Bowl can be saved, and this is how to do just that.
Finally, as a consolation prize for the change, teams would no longer sacrifice their seasons for higher draft position.
As the race to “suck for Luck” unfolded last season, fans were left wondering if it wouldn’t be better for their teams to play badly in order to get that coveted first pick. Without winning the Pro Bowl, the first pick would be out of reach for all teams within one of the conferences.
Thus, teams could not make decisions to lose games in order to insure they would get the first pick.
The overall result would be the worst teams playing better football, without the enticement of being able to get the first pick on their own.
Ultimately, the Pro Bowl would become a much more influential and more enjoyable event for both fans and the players.