February 06, 2009
The only thing more boring than the Pro Bowl is talking about how the Pro Bowl is boring. It's like complaining that MTV doesn't play music anymore, or that they don't call traveling in the NBA. Certain things just are the way they are, and if you're still complaining about them, you care more about complaining than you do about traveling or music.
I've got a plan for the Pro Bowl, though. Not necessarily to fix it, but to destroy it, and build something special in its place. You know what I'd do?
I'll tell you what I'd do. Flag. Football. Tournament.
Stick with me here, because I think this could work. To start with, forget about the idea of a traditional football game on Sunday afternoon. That concept is dead. Scratch it.
Each NFL team sends five guys to Hawaii, with maybe one alternate. Everyone would send a quarterback, and then a handful of skill position players. Whether those are wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs, whatever, that's up to the team. They can put together their own flag football squads.
Now, there are certain things we're going to have to sacrifice.
The first thing to go is the fan voting. Sorry. Personally, I wouldn't miss it, because the general public does things like vote Brett Favre into the Pro Bowl, and come on, that's just crazy.
Secondly, my Flag Football Tournament plan sort of leaves offensive and defensive linemen out in the cold. That's just a sacrifice we're going to have to make. We can still have an All-Pro team, or whatever you'd want to call it, and we can reward those guys with trips to Hawaii, or $10,000 bonuses, or whatever. But they're probably not going to play in the game.
And really, would you miss it? A successful Pro Bowl for a lineman is a Pro Bowl where he doesn't get injured. Since there's no blitzing allowed anyway, the lines are pretty much ornamental in a Pro Bowl game. We send them to Hawaii, but we keep them off the field. Sorry, big fellas, but that's the way it goes.
Back to the tournament. We take 32 teams, and seed them 1-32 in order of their regular season finish. Split it into 4 different "regionals," with the Steelers, Cardinals, Giants and Titans as the #1 seeds, and we get a bracket that looks something like this:
And there we go. Everyone plays both ways. It's Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Terrence Newman against Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, Fred Smoot, and Santana Moss. It's Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Jerious Norwood against Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, and Charles Woodson.
The Pro Bowl's all about displaying talent and putting on a show, right? Come on, you wouldn't want to see Steve Smith covering Braylon Edwards and vice versa? Adrian Peterson spinning and juking in the open field, keeping his flags away from defenders? Torry Holt one-on-one against Larry Fitzgerald? Ben Roethlisberger applying the pass rush against Daunte Culpepper?
Being flag football and all, we'd have to sacrifice the hitting that generally comes with football, but that's okay, because we don't see any hitting in the Pro Bowl anyway. In the entire history of the game, we've had, what, exactly one big hit? We're not missing much.
On a big open field, with that kind of talent, we could see some spectacular throws, catches, and runs. Make man coverage mandatory, so no team sits back in a zone and forces the offense to dink and dunk. This is backyard-style. And everybody's mic'd up at all times. I want to hear the trash talk, the jokes, whatever.
We play the first round on Friday, with 16 games running on ESPN and ESPN2, all day long. On Saturday, we play two more rounds, and we narrow the field down to four teams. Sunday on NBC, we play the semifinals and finals back-to-back, with all the eliminated teams in the stands watching, and the winning team splits a million dollars.
That's my plan, and I think it would be fun. Certainly a lot more fun than we have now, which is basically a three-hour light contact drill with men in Hawaiian shirts repeating again and again, "No, we swear, these guys really do care who wins."
Let's hear your plans for restructuring the Pro Bowl in the comments.
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