The ultimate reality show has found a way to inject a little manufactured drama into a game that otherwise doesn’t have much of it, artificial or otherwise.
According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the team captained by Deion Sanders and coached by Chuck Pagano has opted to give Colts quarterback Andrew Luck the start on Sunday night in the Pro Bowl — even though Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had more combined votes from fans, players, and coaches.
In contrast, Panthers coach Ron Rivera has chosen to configure the depth chart for the team drafted by Jerry Rice based strictly on voting.
“We talked about it prior to this,” Rivera said Saturday, via Person. “He asked and I asked and we both said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just start them according to votes so there’s no hurt feelings?'”
Under the prior AFC-NFC format, starters and backups were determined by the voting results.
League officials had expected Newton to get the start. The “flip card” to be distributed in the press box shows Newton as the starter for Team Sanders.
Luck was the first quarterback taken by Sanders in Wednesday night’s player draft, so it makes sense that Luck would get the start. Moreover, Luck plays for Pagano. It’s hard not to wonder whether Newton’s history in the Pro Bowl was a factor; in his only other appearance two years ago, he completed nine of 27 passes with three interceptions.
Then there’s this recent assessment from former 49ers long snapper Brian Jennings regarding Newton’s debut: “We have Drew Brees with his playbook all week, studying. . . . We have Cam Newton with his head phones on all week goofing off. . . . We go into the game, and this guy is chucking the ball all over the place, and everybody is looking around going, ‘What’s this guy doing? Are you kidding?’ . . . He went in there and stank it up.”
Newton now has a reason to prove Pagano wrong for picking Luck, similar to the way Newton proved people wrong all year long. And we all now have a reason to watch and see what Luck and Newton can do.