NFL Pro Bowl: Rookies vs. Sophomores
A few weeks ago I was speaking with a buddy of mine (Jeff Steel) about the NFL Pro Bowl, and he mentioned something that only became more apparent after the release of the rosters last night. Since there is an obvious lack of commitment players give to the event, this causes an environment that is not competitive and has angered fans in the past and brought stark criticism about the relevance to the spectacle. The NFL Pro Bowl has become undoubtedly the worst all star exhibition of the four major sports. It has gotten so bad in recent years that Roger Goodell is entertaining the idea of cancelling the game altogether, yet still keep the voting as an honorary symbol. What if he did that, yet tweaked the process a little bit...
What if the NFL stole a page from the NBA All Star Weekend? Specifically, the Rookies/Sophomore game. This could be redesigned as a showcase game for the NFL's youngest stars. This can be a national spotlight for many up-and-coming players to increase their value as well as get them on the field with players of their equal skill levels (similar to the senior bowl). This can also be a beneficial tool that will allow coaches to evaluate players and help determine where they fit in the grand scheme of their teams. The format can pit the best rookies and 2nd year players at each spot against each other on two teams, and have them slug it out like they were back in college. Think about this, the skill positions alone would look something like :
Quarterback- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III,Russell Wilson
Running Back-Alfred Morris, Doug Martin,Trent Richardson
Wide Receivers-Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Chris Givens
Tight Ends-Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green
Quarterback-Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton
Running Back- Mark Ingram, Demarco Murray, Stevan Ridley
Wide Receiver-A.J. Green, Julio Jones,Torrey Smith
Tight Ends-Kyle Rudolph, Lande Kendricks
That doesn't sound so bad now does it? From these names alone it looks like this game could have some clout, and that's not even looking at the defensive side of the ball, there are literally too many to name.Even if every player isn't a house hold name yet, being selected will be motivation enough to allow them to dig it out and get their name out there and potentially earn a bigger contract come resign time. Moreover, since each player will only be given two chances to play in the game, they will be less apprehensive to give it their all versus a perennial pro bowler who is playing his in his 9th or 10th (Coming off ACL surgery, I hardly believe Adrian Peterson is going to play more than a quarter). Additionally, players who are on the teams that are playing in the Super Bowl are excused from competition as well. Again, this hurts the overall product put out on the field by the NFL, which they cannot allow anymore, especially after the replacement ref debacle earlier in the season. They are at a crossroads with the sport, and due to their increasing size are scrutinized on every facet of operations. This could be a chance to breathe new life into an antiquated, stagnant idea while at the same time helping each team in the league with personnel decisions.