NFL Comissioner threatens future Pro Bowl

Guest Column by Billy Littlejohn

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated he was disappointed in the quality of this year’s NFL Pro Bowl. He even went as far as to say that without improvements, the Pro Bowl could be eliminated altogether.

Although the Pro Bowl has its problems, just like many other professional all-star games, it doesn’t mean the NFL needs to eliminate the game entirely.

Most professional all-star games have two common flaws: the players’ fear of possible injury and the lack of defense.

Most professional all-star games are known for their lack of defensive rigor. Just take a look at this year’s NHL All-Star Game score: 12-9. It’s not hard to tell that these all-star games are mainly offensive clinics against the defenses.

Roger Goodell had good reason to complain about the most recent NFL Pro Bowl. Many players seemed that they would rather be somewhere else that day. Maybe back at home enjoying the off-season.

2012 NFL-MVP Aaron Rodgers also criticized his own Pro Bowl teammates for their lack of effort, calling it “embarrassing.”

Philadelphia Eagles wide-receiver LeSean McCoy admitted he was probably one of those players Aaron Rodgers was talking about saying, “It’s the Pro Bowl. It’s more for fun. I’m not sure guys are out there trying to play too hard.”

Although there definitely was a lack of effort at this year’s Pro Bowl, as shown by the high final score, some are trying to make is seem like this has never happened in the past. In this year’s Pro Bowl, both teams combined for 100 points. That is certainly high.

Yet, just eight years ago in the 2004 NFL Pro Bowl, both teams combined for 107 total points, with the NFC defeating the AFC 55-52.

I’m sure there were complaints then, just like now, but the league didn’t threaten to possibly end the Pro Bowl forever.

The main reason for the flaws in the current NFL Pro Bowl can be attributed to the fear of players becoming injured and the special rules in place to protect players during the Pro Bowl.

Without some of these special rules, some NFL players would rather stay home, knowing they are safe from injury away from an all-star game that really doesn’t mean much.

One reason people watch football is because of the very physical nature of the sport. Some people just like seeing a quarterback like Eli Manning being chased around the pocket by Ray Lewis all day.

Some want to see a cornerback completely flatten a wide- receiver trying to catch a pass on a quick slant over the middle of the field.

During the NFL Pro Bowl, this part of football takes a backseat to ensure the safety of NFL players.

Most defense formations are limited to basic coverage and the defense is usually not allowed to blitz linebackers, meaning the pass rush must come from defensive linemen.

This takes much of the defense out of the Pro Bowl, explaining why both teams can score more than 50 points in a game some years.

As football fans, we are essentially given two choices. We can have an all-star game with relatively few injuries, not much defense and lots of scoring by the offense.

Alternatively, we can have an all-star game with a much higher risk of injuries, much better defensive play and more moderate offensive production.

This is a bad situation. Although I want to see better defense and a better effort out of the NFL players on Pro Bowl Sunday, I don’t want to see a fan’s all-pro quarterback, such as Drew Brees, standing in the pocket looking for his receivers and suddenly get hit in the legs by a linebacker and tear his ACL.

This is a trade-off we must consider as fans.

Do we want better defenses and a higher probability of injuries, or do we want lackluster defenses and a lower probability of injuries?

There is no clear-cut, foolproof solution to the lack of effort at this year’s Pro Bowl. Some say paying players more to be in the Pro Bowl would be a solution. I don’t believe that.

All we can do as fans is voice our concerns that we value NFL players not getting injured in all-star games.

At the same time, we want this interest balanced more evenly with better defensive performances in the near future, so that both teams don’t score a combined 100 points each and every year.