The Pro Bowl on January 26th was played at its usual location in Hawaii at Aloha Stadium. The NFL had its usual mixture of all-star players from around the league playing in it and the coaches from the AFC/NFC Championship games coached the teams. That is about where all of the familiar stops from there. This year, the Pro Bowl was played under a radical new format that looked more like fantasy football. As a matter of fact, it was billed as “Fantasy football coming to life”.
The NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called for changes in a game that became a bore to watch as players didn’t give much effort into the game. It was probably from a fan’s perspective, as good as television as watching the President giving his “State of the Union” address. It is long, boring, and the exciting part was at the end when it was over.
Goodell couldn’t stomach the lackluster game and called for changes that have revamped the game. Gone was the NFC vs AFC format as two football legends were selected as captains of a team to choose any player from any conference. No more conference play for this game! It was an old fashioned playground style football game where little Jerry and little Deion picked their teams. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders selected their teams in a televised event that played into the fans hearts. It was a different way to see how things would pan out for this new way of playing the Pro Bowl.
After the teams were selected, the rules were hit next as the thing to change. Again, it was a chance to change things up and for the NFL, a way to see how proposed rule changes could affect the game.
The most obvious change was the kickoffs were eliminated and each team started on the 25 yard-line much like the overtime rules for college football. Other changes were a little more subtle and further in the game. There was a two-minute warning every quarter and at the beginning of each quarter, the ball changed possession. Defenses were allowed to use zone coverage and the clock will start after an incomplete pass upon the referee’s signal. The game clock will stop after a quarterback sack in the last two minutes as well.
The uniforms were a definite change, looking a little more vibrant than usual. Team Sanders wore a grey jersey with lime green highlighted numbers with grey pants, lime green socks and gloves. They looked more like the Oregon Ducks than anything else. Team Rice looked like a knockoff of the old Tampa Bay Buccaneer uniforms from the 1980’s. They sported a white jersey with white pants that were outlined in a neon orange outline with neon orange socks and gloves.
As the game was concluding, I gauged fan reaction and overall it was well perceived. Some still hated the format but give it time. Wilford from Austin, Tx stated, “I like this format, and without the kickoffs, well I would have liked it more if they kept them. For the most part, it’s a keeper and also a very physical game.” One fan liked the hits and the physical play as well. It seemed most fans didn’t like the roster format because they didn’t know which team to root for when their favorite players from their favorite teams were spread out. The biggest hits came from teammates hitting on each other so it was definitely a change. Matt from Victoria, Tx exclaimed, “Great concept made an interesting game
Almost had some real season feel cause of how good the defense was” Boyce from Port Lavaca, Tx didn’t care for the game as much, “Still the most boring all star game of any pro sport.” Looking at the twitter feeds, some fans didn’t like the rule changes as one stated, “like the game really matters, they are dumb rules.” Others like many thought the game was very physical, the overall general consensus felt that way.
Overall, the format change was a good one. Fans liked most of the rule changes, the uniforms were eye-catching, and the game was the most physical Pro Bowl ever. If it were up to me, I would probably tweak the roster format. It was strange to cheer on Dez Bryant making a catch then a play or two later, cheer Jason Hatcher for making a sack against Bryant’s team. The hits delivered by teammates were alarming from a coach’s standpoint but great to see as a fan. To put it down to a final analysis, I say keep the game the way it was played this go around. Continue to try different rules out, I liked the two minute warning and change of possession, it kept the offenses on their toes to want to score. Getting rid of the kick offs was something I saw as a benefit because this is a game that is supposed to be fun. Kickoffs are probably the most dangerous parts of an all-star game so keeping it out isn’t a bad thing. Change up the captains every year because seeing Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will get old pretty quickly. And I am not sure what Sanders was sporting on the sidelines but he looked like he was in his 60’s age-wise. Either way it was a fun game to watch and look forward to the format improving.