How to Fix the Pro Bowl: 7-on-7

By Derek Kessinger

If you watched the Pro Bowl, you apparently did not enjoy it. I was unaware how bad the Pro Bowl was this year. I do know that Brandon Marshall was the MVP, which should have told me something. I also heard that fans booed at one point in Honolulu. Instead of telling them to go to the beach, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell agreed with the fans and discussed changes to the game on ESPN radio.

“The kind of football we want to be demonstrating to our fans, and you heard it from the fans, the fans were actively booing in the stands… We are going to either have to improve the quality of what we are doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game if that is the kind of quality of game we are going to provide.”

This statement is the first comment made by the commissioner about a possible elimination of the Pro Bowl. The commissioner has tried a number of different strategies including moving the game to the week before the Super Bowl instead of the week after and changing the location.

The 2012 game’s final score was the AFC on top 59-41. Just like the NHL and NBA’s All-Star games, the Pro Bowl is an offensive showcase that does not resemble an actual game. Defensive players do not want to risk injury, and everyone there is just happy for the bonus. The winning team receives 50,000 dollars a person, while the losing team receives $25,000. A lot of these players have been fined more.

Since the game is really a showcase of talent, the best way to fix the Pro Bowl is put out a product not seen during the regular season. The best option is to do something radical, like a 7-on-7 tournament. Imagine seeing NFL players perform in an arena style game. All of the skill would be there and it would be an intriguing product that happened only once a year.

There are two options for the 7-on7 tournament teams. Have a draft, like in the NHL, with the top quarterbacks picking the teams. In this format, have four teams and play two single elimination games and a Pro Bowl Championship. This would be interesting and the make up of the teams would be part of the story. The games could be only a half apiece so you could play them all in one day.

The other option is to divide the Pro Bowl teams by division. Have eight teams and make the games shorter so the players do not get tired and injured. The main problem with this strategy is the Super Bowl teams likely would not play their players and so those divisions would be picking from a smaller pool of all-stars.

To fix the Pro Bowl, give the fans something new to be excited about. Most fans watch 21 weeks of regular season football a year. What is the appeal of a poorly executed exhibition game? I guess Goddell could also just move the game to the Super Bowl city and play it on Thursday or Friday night, but he should have more imagination.

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