The NFL is reportedly scrapping the Pro Bowl. Booooooo.
While the Pro Bowl is always quite terrible, it's still an extra week of an NFL football-like substance in the barren sports landscape of early February.
Instead of dumping the game, the NFL should make changes that will save it.
Rules – The Pro Bowl as it is isn’t played under official NFL rules. For example, blitzing is not allowed while intentional grounding is. Why not go even more extreme? Make the game 7-on-7. It’s not like anyone is tuning in to see fullbacks and interior linemen anyway. Or change the scoring system.
First, no field goals or extra points (kickers: see earlier sentiment on fullbacks and interior linemen and double it for you).
Second, reward big plays. Make touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line worth one point, those scored between the 11 and 20 worth two, between the 21 and 30 are worth three, and so on all the way up to a 10-point touchdown if you score on a play between 91 and 100 yards. Give defenses a point for every turnover and the yardage rewards if they score.
A 7-on-7 game with alternate scoring rules might seem like an abomination to NFL purists, but they can get over it. Even the PGA Tour sometimes uses Modified Stableford scoring for official events, and no sport takes itself as seriously as golf.
Uniforms – We all love America, but Pro Bowl uniforms -- and your aunt's Fourth of July T-shirt -- have long-proved that sometimes red, white and blue isn’t a good look. Now that the NFL is a Nike league, it should use the Pro Bowl as a testing ground for the most absurd creative designs they can come up with. Send some Nike designers, preferably the ones that work on Oregon’s uniforms, to Amsterdam for a week and see what concepts are produced. Ridiculous outfits equal buzz, buzz equals ratings. Ask Maryland, college football’s Lady Gaga. Maryland is a bad team that people talk about. Why not make the Pro Bowl a bad game that people talk about?
Player-coaches – The players aren’t really listening to the coaches anyway. So scrap the old, mustachioed chubby guys and make players the coaches. I’d love to see a Cam Newton-conceived offense going up against Troy Polamalu’s defensive schemes. Just don’t make Peyton Manning one of the coaches. He’ll script out the first 50 plays and suck the fun out of the whole thing.
Voting – Players, coaches and fans vote on the Pro Bowl participants. I think. No one really pays attention because no one really cares.
The NFL can get people excited about Pro Bowl voting by doing it bracket style like the annual Madden cover voting. Set up a bracket for each position with the final one, two, four or eight moving on to the game, depending on how many are needed for each position.
But players and coaches will be disenfranchised! Oh, really? Surely some of them can figure out how to get online and vote like the rest of us.
Location – Hawaii is nice for the players, but it doesn’t do much to instill a hard-hitting football atmosphere. The NFL can still reward the players who make the Pro Bowl with an expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, but rotate the game itself through NFL towns. Host cities will make it an event, just like the hosts for the NBA, MLB and NHL do, and cities like Cleveland and Jacksonville will be treated every 32 years with the chance to see some decent football players.
Tebow – Involve him in the game somehow. He always seems to generate some buzz, thanks to desperate media people cramming him into any and every football story. Losers.