John Madden coached the AFC team in five Pro Bowls, so he knows something about trying to get players motivated to play in an exhibition game. And Madden says that whether or not the players will be motivated to play will determine whether the Pro Bowl is a game worth keeping.
Asked on SiriusXM NFL Radio about the new rules about having team captains pick the Pro Bowl team, Madden said it won’t matter until the players really want to work hard on the field.
“If they’re going to have captains and pick teams and stuff, I think that’s minutia — I don’t think that means anything,” Madden said. “It’s still going to be how they play the game. Two years ago it was terrible, and it was embarrassing. Everyone agreed it was embarrassing, including the players who played in it. Something had to be done. It couldn’t go on that way. Last year I thought they played a little harder. Whether you have captains and you pick or whatever, it’s still going to boil down to how they play the game.”
Madden said the players have every reason not to put their bodies on the line for the Pro Bowl, but the game won’t be interesting if the players don’t try.
“I understand the reasons they don’t — if you get through a season and you’re healthy and you want to stay that way, there are a lot of reasons,” Madden said. “But if those reasons become too strong then we probably ought to consider doing away with the Pro Bowl.”
And if the latest Pro Bowl innovations don’t improve the quality of the game, doing away with the Pro Bowl may be the next step.