People are already complaining about the setup of next year's Pro Bowl...rather than taking place one week after the Super Bowl, as in years past (including this year), the 2010 Pro Bowl is now slotted for the week prior to the Super Bowl. This most definitely rules out any players from the top two teams being able to play, and possibly any players from the other Conference Finalists.
I understand the desire to move the game into the parameters of the season and make the Pro Bowl more relevant to the fans...the Major League Baseball's All-Star break is a popular event, and holding it during the season is a big reason why. So I see the basic logic of moving the game up two weeks...but beyond that, logic fails here.
Clark Judge commented that ruling out the top four teams from participating equates to a substantial portion of each roster, which would be a huge issue. Another problem is the issue of replacing those roster members that make it to the big dance. We don't know until those Conference Championship games are played who will actually advance to the Super Bowl...and we don't even know which teams will be in the Conference Championships until the Divisional Round has been played one week prior. This gives us only one or two weeks to come up with replacement/reserve players to fill out the Pro Bowl rosters -- a logistical nightmare.
So what's the fix here? I have a proposal, but I know there will be disagreements. I'm not presenting this as the only solution, just a possible one. I'd like to hear opinions from others.
Move the Pro Bowl into the middle of the season. Everyone plays 8 weeks of football. Then we have an "all-star break." Each team gets a bye week in Week 9, the Pro Bowl is played in Week 10, another bye for Week 11, and then the remainder of the season is played out from weeks 12-19. This adds 2 weeks to the season, but it gives a solid break in the middle for players to recuperate. And trust me -- if the Pro Bowl is the only NFL game being played in that 3 week span, every fan will be tuning in.
This also makes the bye week system more fair. Each team gets its byes at the same time. You don't have the tired team coming off a Sunday Night battle and playing a Thursday Night game against a team coming off a bye. Or even a Sunday game between a Monday Night Football team and a bye team. You don't have some teams playing 13 straight weeks of football to close a season, with others getting a break right in the middle.
The major flaw in my plan is that the season is now extended by two weeks...becoming a 19-week affair instead of 17 weeks. There are two ways of getting around that, and possibly a combination of the two.
- Take out the bye in Week 9. The Pro Bowlers play in the Pro Bowl as though it's a regular football week. They are basically playing this game in an avoid-getting-hurt fashion anyway, so one could argue that this is no big deal. I don't personally like the idea, because it would be especially tough on the players coming off a MNF game.
- Cut into the preseason. Most fans I know hate the preseason anyway. It has become less about figuring out which players are making the team and more about bringing in more money for the NFL. How is it possible that teams charge full price for their preseason tickets as if it were a regular game, where you're only going to see your favorite players for one quarter if you're lucky?
I say we add in the three week Pro Bowl bye, and cut into the pre-season by one or two games. That way we extend the overall season by only one week, or not at all.
Another major issue that I'm sure people will bring up is the possibility of players getting injured during the season while playing in an exhibition game. That's why I propose to sandwich it between bye weeks, and I also pointed out that most players are not going all out in the Pro Bowl -- they're just trying to have a little fun, show off, and, most importantly, stay healthy. All the other major sports leagues do it this way, so I don't see why the NFL can't make it work.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have an opinion, and probably not the first person to think of this. But I want to hear what the rest of you have to say. Leave things the way they are (Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl)? Pro Bowl in the week prior to the SB? My idea? Scrap the Pro Bowl altogether? Something else?