As long as we watch it, the Pro Bowl will survive

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Three years ago, it was the lack of willingness to play hard during the game. Now, it’s the lack of willingness to even go to the game. Whatever the malady afflicting the Pro Bowl, the NFL will find a way to fix it, as long as one dynamic continues: People watching the game on TV.

Some think the Pro Bowl could be on life support after the league had to scrape together teams of some-stars to go to Hawaii, after a record number of first choices declined to go. But the game will flatline only if the Nielsen numbers plummet.

The last existential threat to the game came more than three years ago, when Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to pull the plug on the Pro Bowl due to lack of effort.

“I really thought the quality of the game last year was way below standards and if we’re going to play like that we should just eliminate the game,” Goodell said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio town hall. “The players asked if they could take another crack at it and they wanted to try to work to make the game more competitive.  Obviously, I support that but if we can’t accomplish that kind of a standard I’m inclined not to play it any longer.”

The next Pro Bowl did indeed become more competitive, fueled by a my-guts-your-blood speech from quarterback Peyton Manning, whose already-protected position benefits during the exhibition game from no blitzing and full freedom to commit intentional grounding. The talk of euthanizing the Pro Bowl evaporated after Goodell publicly approved of the outcome, and the question of effort has been eclipsed in the two Pro Bowls since then by the fantasy-style team drafting process.

But the novelty of players picking other players in a midweek made-for-TV event has quickly worn off, with the effort given significant credence at this point only by media on the payroll of the league or ESPN, the network televising the game. The Pro Bowl’s newest danger comes from the fact that the league’s best players don’t have a sufficient incentive to attend.

If the league wants to fix that problem, the easiest way to do it would be to increase the pool of money that goes to the players who actually show up for the game. Currently, the players on the losing team get $29,000 each and the winners get $58,000. Maybe a better enticement is needed.

The only alternative would be to push back more aggressively (or at all) when a player passes on the game by citing an injury that wouldn’t keep him from playing in a game that counts. But any appearance of heavy handedness from 345 Park Avenue could inflame relations between the league and the men who make the league what it is.

Whatever Goodell says or the league does to address the situation (and the league ultimately may do nothing), the window dressing will shift and change but the game will remain, as long as people watch it. Given the ratings, it’s obvious that plenty of people who claim to loathe the game are nevertheless dialing in. Until that changes, the Pro Bowl will continue to exist, in some form.

106 responses to “As long as we watch it, the Pro Bowl will survive

  1. Here’s an idea. The NFL is jonesing on doing something in England. Have the Probowl there, throw a bunch of money at the players to go there. And stop the nonsense of having a team there, or regular season games.

  2. The Pro Bowl is the one NFL game that I refuse to watch. It has become more and more an exercise in futility with each succeeding year. Perhaps a better idea would be to make it a 7-on-7 flag football game. That way, the stars could participate with less fear of injury and the fans could see the high-scoring game they want to see. Otherwise, just eliminate it as it’s obvious that the players–especially the high-echelon stars–don’t want to play in this post-season farce. Unlike 40 or 50 years ago, there is really not incentive for a player to participate in this game. Meanwhile, I’ll get more enjoyment today by writing a 3-to-5 page paper for my graduate level psychopharmacology class than I would by watching the Pro Bowl.

  3. My team has ten Pro Bowlers but none will show up. We never had this problem when Chris Weinke was the QB.

    I’ve never watched a Pro Bowl, but if somebody else is, that’s fine. Play on.

  4. I used to watch every year, in hopes of seeing something so shockingly farcical that cancellation could be the only possible result. I was part of the problem.

  5. Technically, the name of the game is correct – it is played by professionals.

    Maybe it needs to go back to being after the Super Bowl. That’s the first attack on the roster, when the conference champs have to bow out. Who knows, some of them might actually want to play.

    And maybe the name of the game should be changed – the other leagues have All-Star games, why shouldn’t the NFL? I’d rather be an All-Star than a just a Pro.

    Another article suggested skill competitions, and I agree with that. Give more players a reason to attend, and it can grow.

  6. All Star Games and the Pro Bowl are something of the past now. It gave us an opportunity to see players we normally wouldn’t. With the advent of technology, we can now see whoever whenever we want, and in real sports situations that have consequences.

  7. Pro Bowl should be the Sunday AFTER the Super Bowl.
    As for watching it, I don’t even put it on in the background. I refuse to give the NFL any rating from my house.

  8. The thing about the Pro Bowl is that even though compared to other NFL games and events it does poorly in ratings, it’s still a better money maker than most every other game in most every other sport.

    It’s not going anywhere.

    They’ll just tweak it to try and get maximum profit.

  9. One issue of all these subs that I haven’t heard talked about are the contract bonuses being awarded for making the team. Many players have escalators or bonuses for making the pro bowl. So for example a seventh alternate who makes the pro bowl because others bail out could be getting a huge contract bonus for making the pro bowl but they didn’t really “make” the pro bowl. Anyone have thoughts about that?

  10. I remain the only man in America with guts enough to say I enjoy the Pro Bowl and I watch it. No, I don’t enjoy is as much as regular season football but it’s great players showing their flashy skills and it’s beats watching real housewives of wherever with my wife. The ratings say something like 5 million households are tuned in so I’m not alone.

  11. The “Pro Bowl” is a Total Joke. The ratings will be lower than last year. Say Goodbye Roger!

  12. If a network that doesn’t have the Pro Bowl was smart, they would run a good program in the same time slot. A season finial, a first run movie, or a two hour special on watching grass grow.

  13. What else am I going to do tonight? Watch another rerun of The Big Bang Theory? It’s winter. It’s cold. I’m inside. I reckon I’ll tune in to ESPN.

  14. What about this? The winning team, AFC or NFC, that conference gets to open training camp a week earlier than the other conference, an extra week of prep. That’s something players and coaches would gladly want to play for.

  15. I’ve watched the REGULAR season games, the playoff games and I’ll watch the Super Bowl. All those games mean something. That’s enough for me.

  16. I’m one of the people who watches… been watching since the 70s. I know it’s not a legit football game any more. It’s not a good All Star game. It’s not even pre-season caliber, where guys are fighting to make rosters. But because I do understand it’s basically a pick-up game with uniforms and pads, I can still get entertainment value out of it. And you do get some cool stuff once in a while – Jeff Saturday switching teams for one play so he could make one last snap to Peyton Manning.

    Nobody ever mistook Reno 911 for a police drama like Law & Order – you knew what you were getting with each. Same with the Pro Bowl.

  17. 1. Move the game back to being played after the Super Bowl.
    2. Pay the players enough money make it desirable to play.
    3. Make regular player bonuses based on Pro Bowl selection payable only if they actually show up to play,

    Problem solved.

  18. Give me a break. It’s an all star game. It’s not supposed to be a real game. It’s like a President’s Club trip. Do you really care about the award? It’s a free trip to Hawaii, and when you get there, you have to do a bunch of company stuff. So what!? It’s a free trip to Hawaii.

  19. I cannot recall the last time I even bothered tuning in for even a minute or two to watch this phony game. I know of no one personally who has seen it in years.

  20. The NFL should just elect the All Pro’s. But no game. Instead of a game, they should create a skills competition similar to the NBA and NHL. And do it a couple weeks after the super bowl once players can recover from the grind of the season and can participate. It’ll also keep football coverage going a while longer until the draft prep takes over focus.

  21. For some of the fans of the 30 teams not in the SB, the Pro Bowl is the last chance we have to see anyone on our team until next pre-season. It’s kind of like a “farewell until next year” sort of game. Russell Wilson lit it up for the NFC in his rookie year and I’m expecting more of the same today. Then I’ll go into football hibernation until next year!

  22. I noticed the network had a crawler last night advertising tickets to the game. Not free tickets, either. Oakland has a handful of players that made the bowl through attrition, but that is not enough to compel me to watch.

  23. Just turn it into a skills competition, and have attendance being mandatory tied into all contracts going forward (except for injuries, which granted is hard to police), and have a portion of salary held back as a potential penalty (which would also be a standard part of the contract).

  24. jtdapit50 says:

    What about this? The winning team, AFC or NFC, that conference gets to open training camp a week earlier than the other conference, an extra week of prep. That’s something players and coaches would gladly want to play for.

    LOL yes, the one thing all players want… More work and a longer training camp.

  25. you really have to be an NFL stooge to watch the pro bowl. Half the elected players opt out and the remaining bunch don’t play.

  26. I used to watch the Pro Bowl but not since they ruined it with this gimmick setup.

    I do remember when Cam Newton was in the pro bowl and he sucked like I’ve never seen anyone suck in a pro bowl game. It even appeared that his teammates hated him because they did nothing to help him. When he went out, things changed – good football.

  27. How about this idea. Back in the 60’s the AFL used to play the college allstars. I know there’s an injury risk but remember those college players do play in other college allstar games anyhow. What a better way to show your stuff playing against NFL players. The game was in the preseason and the college players wore their AFL team helmets they were drafted by.

  28. My team (Jaguars) got one guy in the pro bowl, Allen Robinson, and only because everyone else dropped out. I don’t want him to go. I don’t want him to tear an ACL in that stupid game.

  29. Who really wants to see your player from your team get hurt in this game and may miss part of the upcoming season? Not me. With that said, please keep playing the pro bowl, but I prefer them to take it easy like a Harlem globetrotter game.

  30. Charity game. Increase that game check and each player picks one charity in his community and donates his game check. That would be a nice insentive to show up and to play well enough to win.

  31. Here’s a thought: have huge bonuses in star players contracts relative to pro bowl victory. Have it tie into their contracts, negotiable yet outside the cap. Give players a reason to want to play. Nothing speaks louder than money.

  32. I think they made it worse by eliminating the AFC vs. NFC aspect of it and just making it a pick up game. Who is going to go full out against a guy they know is going to be their team mate next season? Speaking as a Giants fan I know the New York fan base would demand the head of any Giants defensive player that hurt OBJ or Manning in this farce of a contest. Of course it may take the Giants a while to have another pro bowl worthy defender, lol.

  33. Couple ways to make it a more watchful game:

    1. Play it two weeks after the Super Bowl – everybody’s in, and a longer season/news cycle for the NFL

    2. Pay them a lot more to show up – $87,000 is what these guys spend on weed, gotta be $1.5mil+ to get their attention and ease possible injury concerns, winning team gets additional $5mil each

    3. Go back to AFC vs. NFC – nobody likes the new gimmick

    4. At least one player from each team (for the fans), and give more weight to the player votes so it stops being a popularity contest (because the fans are also idiots)

    5. Rotate game through each NFL city – the golf clappers don’t go to these games anyway, and make the tickets $10 so they’ll sell out

    6. Dunk tank for player with the most personal fouls in the regular season, proceeds go to charity

    7. Lifesize Goodell-bot you get to kick in the nuts for free

  34. There’s no denying it. The game has run its course. Should an unfortunate serious injury occur to a star, the uproar will become the game’s death knell.

  35. I turn it on every TV in my house just so I can see the complaints on pft every year. Enjoy fellas, yes I will be watching with some home made bread and a Sunday gravy.

  36. The payouts are not that much greater than they were in the 50’s & 60’s when it really meant something to be selected. Back then, it was big pay day. Today, it’s barely pocket change to these guys

    Solution: triple or quadruple they money and watch them line up. Pay them and they will come.

  37. The stars don’t want to play the game due to risk of injury and otherwise lack of incentive. Here’s a thought, quit trying to make them!

    Have them out for a skills competition over the weekend and then have a “futures” game Sunday night with 1st/2nd year players who are trying to stick around in the league and would actually play the game in hopes of making an impression on their own organization or another team who might give them an extra look if they end up a free agent down the road or steal them from a practice squad.

    Current format is a joke and has only gotten progressively worse.

  38. There is every reason to NOT watch it and NO good reason to watch it !…..I have not watched it for over a decade and will continue to NOT watch same.I have better things to do !

  39. Forget the Pro Bowl. Have the worst two teams battle it out for the 1st overall draft pick, or have the two AFC/NFC championship losers duke it out for a compensatory draft pick in the 1st round or something.. And make it so that the backups have to play. That would be more fun than the Pro Bowl.

  40. It would be better if they reverted to playing after the Super Bowl, so that two teams worth of players didn’t have an instant get-out clause.

  41. I think the Total on the game, 74 at one respected book, may be a little too high. I seem to remember making some money on the Under last year. With this set-up there were 43 points scored first year, last year 60 pts. Is total still too high due to the previous format? Could still be. For many years it was an Over fest.

  42. I voted for all of my Packers as many times as possible. I’m not sure why people call us Packer fans obnoxious, that’s a pretty die-hard thing to do.

  43. Some have suggested having a skills competition instead of the game. There a few things people would watch here I suppose. instead of the game, like QB, RB, or whatever type of skills competitions.

    Here’s a thought. . .

    How many defensive linemen does it take to plant Goodell into turf when he is used as a tackling dummy?

    1) There will be 2 teams of 4 linemen.
    2) In case of a tie, there will be overtime.

  44. The game has to be after the Super Bowl though when we need some football played and so those great players on the Super Bowl teams will play.

    Yes, making it about some good bonuses that maybe the NFL pays would be incentive.

  45. Go back to the AFC-NFC format. It’s as ingrained as Republican vs. Democrat. It’d take a bonehead to change that format, and we’ve got one right at the top of the league. Besides, we don’t need two more idiots rating players. We have enough of them already with the shockjocks.

    Then, just forget the stars and restrict the players to the minimun wage gang. Give the winners 125Gs to the losers 25Gs. :Let a couple of equipment managers do the coaching, they’ll probably do a better job, anyway.

    Technically, it’s still a pro bowl, and the willingness for these rookies and journeymen to impress coaches while having a $50G bet on the game will provide plenty of incentive.

  46. The Pro Bowl has been, and needs to be AFC vs NFC.

    The current format of non coaches picking teams is beyond idiotic.

    Somebody Has to be fired for this idea, and implementing it. yup

  47. This is not going to survive. Goodell has made certain of that. It’s just one more in a long line of inferior products promoted by the NFL and Goodell. And with it being on ESPN, its even several steps more removed from being of interest to most fans.
    Let it die.

  48. I don’t even know what channel it’s on and forgot it was even being played today. So Don’t blame if the NFL is still making money on it.

    15 year Season ticket holder.

  49. I liked watching it until the draft part of it started…. Then it seemed to really get like a carnival feel to it….

    After inviting Winston and Bridgewater the invite loses all honor and credability…. Now announcing a player as a pro bowler is meaningless because people will remember those 2 and know they weren’t worthy… All the good QBs just had better things to do!

  50. I’ll still watch. It’s a game. People watch meaningless events all the time. Besides this is the only post-season game I get to watch Browns play in.

  51. As long as this is the only football this weekend besides the Senior Bowl, people WILL watch.

  52. The pro bowl is a joke. I watched it years ago. Then it got to a point where the players made a joke of it. To top it off, the NFL decided to go to the current format. I don’t know who the NFL is trying to get as viewers, but the fan base doesn’t like how the NFL is changing.

  53. I’ll attempt to post this again, PFT.

    Here’s some suggestions to fixing the Pro Bowl…

    1. Returning it to the weekend after the Super Bowl.

    2. Increase the incentive of winning ($100K for winning, $50K for losing).

    3. Add a skills competition to be played on the Friday or Saturday before the game.

    4. Give players who have 5+ years experience the option to not play in the game and call it a Rising Stars competition.

  54. PRO bowl is boring now, don’t even tackle, and packing teams is terrible idea and don’t know why Irvin, weird that the nfl promotes Irvin when he slashed a teammates’ neck when he was with the cowboys.

  55. I just don’t like the idea of my teams players risking injury in a meaningless game. 7 on 7 and player competitions sounds perfect to me. NFL players playing street ball would be fun to watch. No practice or planned plays.

  56. As I write this, it’s 10 minutes to kickoff, and the crowd looks like its MAYBE 2500, tops.

  57. I’ll watch it or at least parts of it. It gets me through this first week without football. I know the competition level is down, but I always looked at as a reward for top guys. Go to the islands for week, see all the guys from college, play a little ball, and go home. And if you don’t want to spend your time watching that, don’t. At my house I got this remote thing, push one button and there is something else on.

  58. I’d watch a skills competition, but this joke of a “game” has no allure.

    And $58K? Doesn’t even cover one of the cars these guys have in their garage. I’d skip it too and rest for the next season where I’ll make $8M.

  59. The NHL just did something far more compelling and entertaining than this game or model may ever be able to match.

    Is it ironic or just anecdotal that most watched professional league has the least watchable “All-Star Celebration”?

  60. I love football!!! Sunday ticket w/mobile, degenerate gambler, fantasy nerd, the whole burrito. Haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in (can’t remember how many) years.

  61. the8man says:
    Jan 31, 2016 8:43 PM
    The NHL just did something far more compelling and entertaining than this game or model may ever be able to match.

    Is it ironic or just anecdotal that most watched professional league has the least watchable “All-Star Celebration”?


    Yep. Count me among the ASG/ProBowl haters, but the NHL nailed this year. Don’t get me wrong – part of the attraction was all of the controversy surrounding John Scott and his decision to attend, but in the end the NHL did the right thing and it made for probably the most interesting ASG in decades. Of course, 80% of the people reading this will have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. If you’re one of them, Google “A guy like me…” and read the story on Jeter’s Player’s Tribune.

  62. Stop letting fans vote.

    Change it to Stats, players and coaches. That way there is a greater chance of players getting in by earning it.

    Go back to NFC vs AFC. At least conference fans had a reason to watch back then.

    Otherwise, drop it and just create a Rookie Bowl or something. Or an “Undrafted Bowl” to give undrafted players a shot at impressing.

    OR…finally create a developmental league and have teams compete in the off season that way.

    OR…give Hawaii a team so they can have more than one game a year. Pretty good chance it will have enough fans.

  63. Had a leaning rick of wood. I knocked it down and restacked it. And yes, that was more interesting.

  64. jjackwagon says:
    Jan 31, 2016 10:58 PM
    Had a leaning rick of wood. I knocked it down and restacked it. And yes, that was more interesting.


    I had to look up what a “rick of wood” was, but after doing my research, I must concur that this does sound more interesting. I don’t have a rick of wood (or anything to burn it in) at my house, so I made a chicken pot pie instead. It was very tasty.

  65. I wonder who watches it? I’m a football junkie, but I have never, ever watched this game. Snippets here and there totaling maybe 15 minutes, but that’s it.

    As for the players, maybe in 1980 it was a nice paid vacation for good players. They make so much money now, they can go to Honolulu and stay in the Royal Hawaiian anytime they want.

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