I’ve said many times that the Pro Bowl simply shouldn’t be played at all, since any player who is able to play in the Pro Bowl after playing a full season of football shouldn’t play one more game. If it’s going to be played at all, it should be the glorified walk-through that was witnessed on the few occasions that I watched the game on Sunday. (If you missed the game, we give you the Harrison Smith pick six and the various blocks that sprung him.)
And that’s fine. But the players who specifically weren’t playing at full speed shouldn’t act like the game was, for the most part, anything more than two-hand touch in pads.
“I think it was because there were so many great fans out there and guys wanted to put on a good show and really get this Pro Bowl up to the standard that we wanted it to be at,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten after the game, via ESPN.com.
Added Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander: “We’ve only got one speed, and we were just out there playing hard, trying to win.”
It’s possible Alexander was being sarcastic; however, the ESPN.com article communicating the quotes plays it straight and serious, as if the players actually believed they played hard.
“At the end of the day, it’s hard to play this game at any sort of a lower tempo than what you’re used to,” Saints defensive end Cam Jordan said. “Honestly, it’s hard not to go hard, especially when you’re going against some of the best players in our league. You almost want to go [full speed]. It takes so much to not go full speed, so I don’t even try to fight it.”
They can say what they want, but those of us who watch football on a regular basis know full speed when we see it. And the Pro Bowl isn’t full speed. (Maybe, near the end and with $32,000 on the line, it’s a little more than half speed.)
Again, that’s fine. It shouldn’t be full speed. Maybe they’re acting like it’s full speed for the benefit not of us, but of the one member of the audience who has the power to pull the plug on the Pro Bowl, and who has threatened to do so in the past.
“If we cannot accomplish that kind of standard [of high play], I am inclined to not play it,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in 2012, adding that the game from the prior year was “embarrassing” in his estimation. “It is really tough to force competition, and after a long season, to ask those guys to go out and play at the same level they played is really tough.”
It’s even tougher to forgo the profit the Pro Bowl generates, and it surely does. The moment it doesn’t is the precise moment the NFL will cancel it.