Wednesday, July 31, 2013

THE GAME PLAYED THE WEEK BETWEEN THE AFC/NFC CHAMPIONSHIP AND THE SEASON-ENDING BIG GAME: As part of the continuing effort to find a way to make the Pro Bowl relevant, the NFL has announced major changes:
  • No longer is it an AFC v. NFC game--now, all "all stars" will be in one pool, and are "drafted" shortly before the game into two teams by "coaches" who won Fantasy Football competitions.
  • Effectively, they'll play 4 "halves," with a guaranteed change of possession at the end of each quarter.
  • No kickoffs/returns.  (This may well be a pilot for getting rid of kickoffs altogether, which has been discussed as a concussion-prevention method.)
  • In the last two minutes of each quarter, unless you advance the ball more than a yard, the clock stops--no more kneel downs.
  • A shorter play clock.
Will be interesting to see how these get implemented and the response--as well as whether they trickle down into regular season play.


  1. Joseph Finn2:26 PM

    Will Jeff Probst be the head referee?

  2. Adlai6:38 PM

    So, wait, no puppies?

  3. isaac_spaceman8:04 PM

    Some of these are not intended to trickle down to regular-season play. They're just there to avoid the embarrassment of last year's pro bowl, where by the end of the game the linemen weren't even making contact with each other. And you know what? I don't blame the players. It's a feat requiring some luck to get through a 16-game (plus pre-season and practices) NFL season without a season-ending or career-interrupting injury, and those that have done it are bruised and exhausted. Why would you expect players to risk their livelihood for a meaningless extra game? It's like having a Russian Roulette All-Star Game.
    Frankly, I'd rather have them turn it into something fun and non-contact. The centerpiece could be a 6-on-6 or 7-on-7 flag football game where for at least one quarter all of the players are linemen, everybody has to play both ways, and everybody has to play out of position at least for some time. Steal a bunch of competitions from Battle of the Network Stars and RW/RR Challenge (four words: DUNK TANK SPELLING BEE). I realize that there are still injury risks (Robert Edwards, right?), but they'd at least be less than the risks of a full-pad full-speed NFL game.

    Or just cancel it, because you can't make a Pro Bowl that people will care about.

  4. Adam B.10:16 PM

    Edwards blew his leg out in ... a rookie beach flag football game during Pro Bowl week. But I like the idea, especially All-Lineman Flag Football.

    Hell, what about the old Superstars competition? Swimming, bowling, obstacle course, etc.

  5. I do wonder if there's a way to fix it through scheduling. Maybe make Thanksgiving an off week and have the Pro Bowl that Sunday? At least a midseason game doesn't remove a portion of players because they're prepping for the Super Bowl.


    Yeah, I'm from Detroit.

  7. isaac_spaceman11:49 AM

    Yeah, first, the NFL is never taking Thursday away from Jerry Jones. Probably not Detroit either, though the main thing Detroit has going for it these days (on the Thanksgiving game front, but maybe also in general) is that there is no easy way to justify taking the game away from Detroit but not Dallas without basically admitting either favoritism toward Dallas or lack of concern for Detroit. And the NFL just added a third Thanksgiving game--purely for NFL financial reasons--a couple of years ago. Why would the NFL forego the TV money from a lucrative three-game Thanksgiving card just so that it can put on a one-game Sunday exhibition that nobody ever watches anyway?
    Second, what owner/coach/player/NFL executive/fan in his right mind would want or agree to a mid-season game? It makes no sense at all to risk an injury that would affect your ability to play your best during the playoffs, your ability to make the playoffs, or--if you are a terrible team--your ability to field the good players who are the only reason for your miserable fans to keep watching for the rest of the season. And why anybody want a system that gives the best players an extra midseason week of work but gives everybody else a week of rest and recuperation? The NFL has a hard enough (impossible) time giving players an incentive to take the postseason Pro Bowl seriously. A midseason game increases that problem exponentially. I can't think of a single reason why any football fan at all would think that a midseason Pro Bowl would be a good thing.

  8. Also, advertising money. The Ford family owns the Lions. As long as Ford, GM and Chrysler are pumping billions of dollars of TV ad revenue into the league, the Thanksgiving game is going nowhere.

  9. The only way it would happen is as part of a broader schedule restructure and lengthening--basically, granting most players a guaranteed off week at midseason in exchange for going to an 18 game regular season schedule.

    The goal would be to try and turn it into what the baseball and NBA all star games are--maybe by adding the day before some elaborate "skills" event.

  10. isaac_spaceman4:06 PM

    So the plan is to go to 18 games--an idea that the players already hate--with two bye weeks and a week off mid-season, extending the regular season from the current 17 weeks to 21 weeks (18 + 2 bye + Thanksgiving), and the 100 or so best players in the league have to play at least 19 games (regular season + midseason Pro Bowl) and as many as 23 games (up through Super Bowl)? And we'll do all of this in a sport where there is increasing acceptance of the prevalence of cumulative brain damage? And in which, in large part because of injury issues, the length of an average career is about 3 years? And in which some rudimentary research suggests that marginal increases in work load beyond the average (at least from running backs) yield logarithmic decreases in expected performance (i.e., and therefore expected career length and earning power)? That would be completely bat-shit crazy, and it still wouldn't address the basic problem that we've just been discussing, which is that it is not in any player's interest to play hard in an exhibition game once he already has a roster spot.

  11. Adam B.4:40 PM

    If Matt meant to say "18 week regular season," that would make more sense. Everyone gets a second bye week.

    No one's playing hard in the Pro Bowl no matter what, but especially as a mid-season game.