Sports Take: NFL Pro Bowl needs to change

AFC wide receiver, Hunter Renfrow, cuts up the field with two NFC defenders at his back on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. Photo courtesy of AP.

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

The NFL Pro Bowl has become more disappointing every year, and this year was no exception. Once again, the Pro Bowl received a tremendous amount of criticism from fans and former players, many hoping they will end the event altogether.

The lack of competition in the game has been a problem for a while now. Most players are worried about the chance of getting injured in a game that counts for little to nothing. This year it was taken a step further as the NFL decided tackling wouldn’t be allowed and went with two-hand touch. This led to players trying even less, and viewers being more outraged than normal. Deion “Primetime” Sanders, NFL Hall of Famer, took to twitter to voice his frustration with the current state of the Pro Bowl.

“I remember when we were so proud and appreciative of that accolade,” Sanders said via Twitter. “We went to Hawaii to prove we were more than worthy so we competed at practice and in the game. I wanted u to know that PRIME was PRIME! What Happened & When?”

I’m not old enough to have seen Sanders compete, but I am old enough to vividly remember watching Sean Taylor deliver one of the most iconic hits of all time during the 2007 Pro Bowl. That is part of what makes football so fun to watch, the big hits and the intense competition between teams. I don’t believe everyone should go out there and try to reenact Taylor’s hit, because I understand they would be more likely to get injured in a “useless” game. However, it’s not like anyone in today’s league is connecting those types of tackles with the same veracity anyway. In a league that is commonly judged as going soft, why give everyone more reason to be swayed.

I believe there should be rule changes or rules removed. As of right now, players are not allowed to tackle or blitz, and must line up in certain defensive sets. These rules take the defense completely out of the game and lead to the offense running walk-through plays where no one seems to care. Why would the offense try if the defense isn’t really allowed to?

If these rules aren’t able to be changed, they should give the players more incentive to compete — the obvious being money. Give the players more money for being selected and maybe offer their organization a bonus as well. This seemed to work well in recent years in the NBA All-Star Game. Incentives and formatting was changed and the players seemed to enjoy the new changes to All-Star weekend, and we’ve seen some of the best and most competitive All-Star games we have seen in a long time.

Changing the game might help as well, as in possibly turning the actual game into a 7-on-7 game so defensive backs and receivers can really compete, or maybe adding this as a whole other event. Also, maybe adding an event where retired players and former pro bowlers are allowed to come back and compete in something against other retired players. I know fans would love to see former fan favorites in action once again.

I agree with criticism saying the way the Pro Bowl is played is disrespectful to the game of football. I believe the NFL should aim to improve it, and actively work on it. If not, they should do away with the game and just allow players to be selected as Pro Bowlers without playing in a game they don’t have any interest in competing in anyway.