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5 ways to make the NFL Pro Bowl fun again

Everyone loves to complain about the Pro Bowl, and for good reason. NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz has some thoughts on how to improve it.

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Almost time for one of my favorite fake outrages of the NFL season: the Twitter mob attacking the level of play at the Pro Bowl. It’s an all-star exhibition game played the week before the Super Bowl (usually in Hawaii, but in Orlando this year).

At times, the game, played in full pads, resembles a touch football game and I understand why that would bother people. When the pads go on, people expect a full-speed game. I often wrestle with this idea, as well. If you don’t play at full speed, you open yourself up for injury. Some guys are already nursing injuries heading into this week. So I can’t fault a player for feeling that going slower is the way to roll.

If I made a Pro Bowl, not sure I’d go any faster than a glorified walkthrough either. The game is a celebration of your excellent play from the season. All that being said, I offer some ideas on how to fix the game.

The prestige of the Pro Bowl has taken a hit in recent years, and I think that has contributed to the game speed being slower now. With the media coverage of the NFL continuing to grow, there are now postseason awards from every outlet.

Growing up, and even during my earlier years in the NFL, the Pro Bowl was viewed as the ultimate award someone could earn, along with being named AP All-Pro. Now, I don’t think it’s viewed this way, especially among the younger players. So if people want the Pro Bowl to return to being somewhat physical, here’s how that could happen.

Money

Currently, a winning player receives $61,000 and a losing player receives $30,000. If you want the game to continue as formatted, you must increase the winning pot and give more incentive to play hard.

I know you’re thinking, you shouldn’t need an incentive to play hard in the Pro Bowl. Injuries are a risk in this game. Recently, players have been injured in the Pro Bowl and missed regular season games. That hurts their opportunity to earn money in the future.

Also, $60k isn’t that much to these guys. Often, most of the Pro Bowl players are earning millions of dollars. If you gave the winning team $100k or $150k while keeping the losing team at $30k, even going down to $20k, you’d see an increase in play.

More about money

Pro Football Focus is a big part of the football culture now, whether we as players like it or not. Media members use the grades to vote players into the Pro Bowl, and teams use the advanced stats for game plans and tendencies. Even the Sunday Night Football broadcast posts the PFF grade under players’ names during the introduction.

So here’s what I propose: Have PFF grade the game live and award bonuses for better play. Not sure how you’d determine the level of bonuses, but I know guys would play harder knowing their bonuses depend on it.

Location

I’ve never been to Orlando and I’m sure it’s a fine city, but the Pro Bowl has to remain in Hawaii. It’s a treat to go to Hawaii. Lots of players haven’t been there. It feels special traveling there. It doesn’t feel special going to Orlando. It would be like just another trip to play football. Keep it in Hawaii.

Pro Bowl inactives

Allow players over 30 with five or more Pro Bowl appearances to not be active on game day if they choose. The Pro Bowl is already watered down. Guys drop out for injury, and those teams playing in the Super Bowl can’t send their guys. You could argue for moving the Pro Bowl to after the Super Bowl, but I don’t mind it being in this spot.

If you allow some younger guys into the game, or if a vet chooses to skip it, the speed of the game will pick up. Some of the older veterans are beat up and aren’t mentally in a spot where they want to play the Pro Bowl full speed. This would help with that issue.

A fat guy game and more fun

If you’re looking to completely change the format of the Pro Bowl, I have some fun ideas for that.

First, the game is gone. It’s becomes a week long, or shorter, skills week. Split the guys up into teams and have them compete the whole time. People love watching these types of events. Mental challenges, physical challenges. You could even add a fat guy 7-on-7 game or a basketball game with the skill guys.

Have an event for retired players. Bring back the favorite players from each team, voted by the fans, and have them play in a 7-on-7 style matchup. Brett Favre throwing to Jerry Rice, etc. People would watch that.

If you want the format of the Pro Bowl changed or have any other ideas about “fixing” this week, let me know on Twitter. You can find me here.

Enjoy the game!