Friday, December 27, 2013

The 53 - 2013 Pro Bowl Thoughts

The NFL is implementing some changes for the Pro Bowl this year in hopes of somehow keeping an irrelevant game relevant.  Instead of naming AFC and NFC teams, there were pools of players picked irrespective of conference.  From the pools of players picked, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will select the teams that play in the Pro Bowl.  I am sure that ESPN loves the idea of having Rice and Sanders pick the teams because it will allow them to fill hours of airtime dissecting their meaningless draft decisions.

I hope this slight change in the Pro Bowl format serves as a bridge to a radical way to replace the Pro Bowl all together.  I like the idea of recognizing the best players in the NFL and I like idea of having captain choose teams but I hate the actual game itself so here is my plan for making the Pro Bowl relevant again.  Instead of using former NFL greats, make the two players that finish with the most votes the captains.  Since the NFL is apparently pushing to improve player safety, instead of picking teams for a joke of a game that the Pro Bowl has become, I say pick teams for an all-day skills competition.

Sure we can have a quarterback challenge and other quasi on the field competitions but I am much more interested in the off-the-field stuff.  I know each of the competitions will not get as good of television ratings as the Pro Bowl but I have solution to fill that void.  The easiest off-the-field competition is an eating content that involves all the offensive and defensive lineman.  Since we know the NFL loves to push any advertising it can, they can call it the BW3's Wing Eating Competition.  While we are getting branding in the mix, how about an EA Sports Madden video game competition?  As the Real World/Road Rules Challenge has shown us, adult spelling competitions always provide high comedy so let's add in the Spelling Bee.  I am sure there are ten more that we could come up with but you get the point.

I am not an advertising genius but the NFL might even be able to make more money off the Pro Bowl Skills Competition presented by Miller Lite than the actual Pro Bowl game itself currently makes depending on how much the NFL charges the advertisers for each competition.  Leaving money aside for a moment, the NFL can use the downtime during the competitions to tell the back stories of the players involved in the Pro Bowl Skills Competition presented by Miller Lite, which will help them increase interest with women by making these freakish athletes seem more like regular human beings.  Unfortunately since this idea makes too much sense I am sure NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will never let it see the light of day.

With my Pro Bowl Skills Competition presented by Miller Lite idea out of the way, let's take a look at the actual 2013 Pro Bowl from a Cheesehead sports perspective.  The Green Bay Packers were one of five NFL teams without a player selected to the Pro Bowl.  The other four teams without a Pro Bowler are the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, and New York Jets.  That marks the first time since 2005 that the Packers did not have a single player named to the Pro Bowl.

The Packers did have eight players named as Pro Bowl alternates: John Kuhn (FB), Eddie Lacy (RB), Clay Matthews (OLB), Jordy Nelson (WR), Aaron Rodgers (QB), Sam Shields (CB), Josh Sitton (G), and Tramon Williams (CB).  Here are my thoughts on the three biggest Packer Pro Bowl snubs, in reverse order:

#3) Josh Sitton (LG): There were six offensive guards selected to the Pro Bowl ahead of Sitton: Jahri Evans (Saints), Ben Grubbs (Saints), Mike Iupati (49ers), Logan Mankins (Patriots), Louis Vasquez (Broncos), and Marshal Yanda (Ravens).  I am fine with Iupati, Mankins, and Yanda making it ahead of Sitton.  I am even fine with either Evans or Grubbs making the Pro Bowl at guard but not both given that the New Orleans Saints offensive line was not that dominate this season.  I presume giving Vasquez the nod is just a tip of the cap to the Denver Bronco offensive line given that the Broncos had one of the most potent offenses in NFL history this season.  In terms of Sitton's case for the Pro Bowl, not only did he seamlessly transition from right guard to left guard but he lined up next to rookie offensive tackle David Bakhtiari and blocked for a backup quarterback for almost half the regular season.  Accurately comparing offensive lineman is more of an art that a science but given all that I just discussed, it would have been nice to see Sitton named to the Pro Bowl this season.

#2) Jordy Nelson (WR): There were eight wide receivers selected to the Pro Bowl ahead of Nelson: Antonio Brown (Steelers), Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Josh Gordon, (Browns), A.J. Green (Bengals), Andre Johnson (Texans), Calvin Johnson (Lions), Brandon Marshall (Bears), and Demaryius Thomas (Broncos).  I honestly think if Nelson was more flashy, he would get more recognition because he made a number of highlight reel catches like his touchdown catch that helped spark the comeback against the Dallas Cowboys. Given how much the Texans have struggled this season, I probably would have given Nelson the nod over Johnson.

#1) Eddie Lacy (RB): There were the six running backs selected to the Pro Bowl ahead of Lacy: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs), Matt Forte (Bears), Frank Gore (49ers), Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks), LeSean McCoy (Eagles), and Adrian Peterson (Vikings).  If I was starting a franchise tomorrow and could have any of the aforementioned group, I would have a hard time choosing between McCoy and Peterson.  After that, it would be a tough choice between Lacy and Lynch when you factor in that Lynch is four years older than Lacy.  I am biased in my love for Lacy so I would probably take Lacy ahead of Lynch but that is a very tough call.  Oddly I am fine with Lacy getting snubbed by the Pro Bowl if that helps him win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year because I actually think that is a more important benchmark in a player's career given what a joke the Pro Bowl has become.

Let's hope no one on The 53 for the Packers can compete in the 2013 Pro Bowl because they are preparing to play in Super Bowl XLVIII.  Their first step towards that goal is beating the Chicago Bears in the winner-take-all battle for the NFC North title.  No matter the outcome of the game, make sure to check back early next week for my full thoughts on the Packers/Bears game.

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