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It seems the NFL is finally ready to fix the Pro Bowl.
The quality of play in the all-star game has deteriorated to the point of being nearly unwatchable for most football fans. With Pro Bowl ratings having reached a 16-year low in 2022, drastic adjustments may soon be in the pipeline.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Tuesday that the league is discussing tweaks to Pro Bowl week. The topic arose in Atlanta as part of a regularly scheduled owners’ meeting, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
The most significant change could be the cancellation of the game itself.
It would not be a controversial decision. Roughly 80 percent of the fans who responded to a Twitter poll Tuesday afternoon agreed that the Pro Bowl game should be done away with.
However, the league doesn’t seem to be getting on the rid of the week between the conference championship games and Super Bowl altogether. It still wants to show off its biggest stars during that time, per Rapoport.
While most would agree that a change to the Pro Bowl is necessary, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the best way to go about it.
A move away from a full-tackle 11-on-11 contest looks likely. Maske revealed that a seven-on-seven competition without tackling was under consideration as an alternative.
Bleacher Report polled app users and saw some mixed results on how the NFL should replace the Pro Bowl. While “just get rid of the whole week” had the lead on Tuesday afternoon with 36.6 percent of the vote, the “add more to skills challenge” option was only slightly behind at 35.4 percent.
Only 17.3 percent of voters want to see a linemen-only seven-on-seven game, while races to determine the fastest player earned 10.7 percent of votes.
If the league needs inspiration, there is no shortage of options being thrown around on social media. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting alternatives.
VfL Bochum vs. 1. FC Union Berlin New School
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Chad Johnsona six-time Pro Bowler himself, wants to see current stars square off with retired Pro Bowlers in a flag football matchup.
Johnson’s idea could have some legs, especially since the league honored legacy Pro Bowlers by having players like Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice serve as team captains during the Pro Bowl draft era in the mid-2010s. Some recently retired superstars could give the current generation of elite talents a run for their money in a seven-on-seven game.
Coaxing stars who likely still have something left in the tank — such as Andrew Luck, Julian Edelman, Marshawn Lynch and many others — to come out of retirement for a flag football game could be competitive and fun.
Like Johnson said, this one would likely smash the Pro Bowl ratings record.
Better Skills Competitions
Former NFL safety Su’a Cravens wants to see the Pro Bowl return to Hawaii — it moved away from Aloha Stadium a half-decade ago — and more skills competitions during the week.
Returning the event to Aloha Stadium would add more luster to Pro Bowl week. Hawaii is an exciting destination for players and fans, and the state doesn’t see regular NFL action anymore.
The other half of Cravens’ idea could make Pro Bowl week even more exciting. Expanding the current Skills Showdown — which already includes precision-passing, thread-the-needle, best-catch and fastest-man events in addition to a dodgeball game — by creating new challenges would make for a riveting watch.
Competitions to see who can throw the longest pass or kick the longest field goal, regardless of position, would add a level of intrigue that the Pro Bowl has been lacking. The NFL could even bring in specialists to compete in these events even if they aren’t selected as Pro Bowlers, much like how the NBA invites its top athletes to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Slam Dunk Contest
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Speaking of the dunk contest, radio host Rich Eisen believes there should be one involving NFL players. That idea might have some traction, as nearly 70 percent of Twitter voters believe the NBA has the best All-Star Game of the four major American sports leagues.
It would be unconventional, but who wouldn’t want to watch massive NFL linemen throwing down windmill dunks during the lead-up to the Super Bowl?
Stars like Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr., Tyreek Hill, Patrick Mahomes and many others have shown off their dunk artistry in the past. There could be some hidden gems lurking in the Pro Bowl field, too.
If the league added a dunk contest to the Skills Showdown, it could very well end up being one of the most popular events amongst viewers.
Combine Drills for Cash
Denver Broncos reporter Benjamin Allbright wants to eliminate any sort of Pro Bowl game and instead focus on combine-style workouts and drills with money on the line.
Allbright’s idea would give extra incentive to participants who generally go out of their way to avoid risking injury in the Pro Bowl. With cash up for grabs — that could either end up in their bank account or go toward their favorite charities — players would have more reason to give their all in these events.
NFL stars would throw up reps on the bench press, run 40-yard dashes, show off their vertical leaps and run through the rest of the combine-style testing that they likely haven’t performed since they were hopeful draftees in Indianapolis.
It would also provide some interesting data for fans, as they could compare a Pro Bowler’s current testing numbers to those from before they entered the league.
Bring In the NCAA
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry wants to see college football become part of Pro Bowl by week by having pro players coach the Senior Bowl.
Having the NCAA and NFL all-star showcases intermingled at the same location during the same week could add to these respective events. The top college stars could compete against the best pros in skills challenges and combine events, which most fans would love to witness.
Landry’s idea would also give players a chance to try their hand at coaching, potentially opening a post-playing career option that they may not get exposed to otherwise.
It would also give pro personnel solid access to collegiate talent, helping teams get familiar with the prospects whom they’ll soon have a chance to draft.
With the rise of the USFL, it may be time to discuss bringing relegation over to major American sports.
While there’s almost zero chance that team owners would ever go for it, @ fah_fl0p on the Bleacher Report app suggested that the USFL champion should take on the NFL’s lowestliest squad with relegation on the line.
Soccer fans would likely be all for this. Relegating the worst teams and promoting the best from a lesser league fosters a better competitive environment and discourages tanking.
The NFL may never adopt it, but a Relegation Bowl would surely make for a more intriguing watch than sitting through another Pro Bowl in its current format.
NFL x Survivor
One of the top comments on the Bleacher Report app’s Pro Bowl discussion was courtesy of ilbilldelano. He suggested that the league hold a Hard Knocks-style reality show in which Pro Bowlers are sent to Hawaii to compete in a team survivor competition.
This would give fans a better glimpse into these NFL stars off the field as they tackled challenges that they don’t face on the gridiron.
NFL x Chopped
Longtime NFL reporter Josina Anderson likes the idea of replacing the Pro Bowl with a cookout and ceremony for the league’s top stars.
Taking that one step further, perhaps NFL players themselves could provide the fare for this cookout. The league could hold a Chopped-style competition or a barbecue face-off that identifies the best culinary talents amongst the Pro Bowlers.
It may not be hard-hitting football, but many players — especially NFL linemen — take their cooking seriously and would likely put it all on the line if this idea were adopted.
No. 1 Pick Bowl
This is one of the more interesting ideas out there, as it would create competitive, meaningful football. While the Pro Bowl wouldn’t be the star showcase that the league has traditionally used it for, a draft-pick bowl could be paired with Anderson’s idea of holding a cookout and ceremony for the NFL’s best.
Regardless of what the NFL decides to do, almost anything will be better than the current Pro Bowl format. With so many interesting ideas floating around right now, the league could throw a dart at one and improve the Pro Bowl.