Imagine an NBA All-Star Game where Darren Collison was playing point guard or an MLB All-Star Game where Jorge De La Rosa (God bless him) was pitching.
Collison and De La Rosa aren’t horrible. They’re also not good. Both do mediocre jobs at important positions. It would be silly to see them logging minutes in their respective leagues’ all-star games. Sort of like, I don’t know, Andy Dalton or Trevor Siemian playing quarterback in the Pro Bowl.
The Pro Bowl is this Sunday in Orlando. This week, we learned that Dalton, the Bengals quarterback who threw fewer touchdown passes (18) than Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles and Sam Bradford this season, will represent the AFC in the game. He replaced Tom Brady, whose Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.
We also learned that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, who ranked 20th in the NFL in yards per attempt (7.0) and 25th in completion percentage (59.5), was invited but declined because he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. So on the AFC side the quarterbacks under center will be Dalton, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers. Can you feel the excitement?
The NFL Pro Bowl is trash. Has been for a long time. Every year, undeserving players get in because of injuries and players politely declining. The league moved the game from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the continental U.S. in 2010. The league tried a three-year experiment where NFL legends picked teams from a pool. None of the tweaks have seemed to make the game much better.
It’s difficult to imagine a way the Pro Bowl could ever be good. Players don’t — and rightly shouldn’t — treat the game like it means anything. Their performance in the Pro Bowl isn’t going to help them earn a fat contract down the road. Their play isn’t going to help their team make a playoff appearance or get one step closer to the Super Bowl. They know it doesn’t matter, and so the game looks like a glorified scrimmage. Players will never go a million miles an hour like they do in the games leading up to it. They don’t have much incentive to.
So here’s an idea to make Pro Bowl weekend entertaining: Turn it into a golf tournament. Whoever is selected to the Pro Bowl is allowed to enter. Let NFL executives compete as well. Give first, second and third place a cash prize. Broadcast the whole thing.
The league could put together some wildly entertaining foursomes. Think about Aqib Talib and Von Miller golfing alongside Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers. Would Talib talk trash to them in their backswing? How angry would Rivers become if he hooked a drive into the trees? Would Cousins scream “YOU LIKE THAT” into the camera after he smashed a shot down the fairway?
This would be perfect for the Sunday between the conference championship games and Super Bowl. Players would want to compete in it. There’s minimal injury risk.
What does the league have to lose? Viewership numbers continue to sink. Last year, the Pro Bowl had a 5.0 overnight rating, which the Sports Business Daily called “likely the worst rating ever.” You can’t tell me that Aqib Talib and Philip Rivers playing 18 holes together would do worse numbers than that.
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