Since the 1950 NFL season, the league has held the Pro Bowl each year with the exception of 2020 when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Over the years, there have been a number of tweaks to how the game has been played. From occurring before the Super Bowl versus after the game, years where the teams were chosen by captains, or the location in which the game was played has changed during recent years years.
On Monday, the NFL announced what looks to be the biggest change in the game, outside of canceling it altogether, in it’s more than 70 year history. With constantly evolving rules in order to reduce player injury, and the effort given by the players becoming more in question, the NFL has decided to replace the game with a multi-day skills competition culminating in a flag football game. This per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
NFL is replacing the Pro Bowl with a multi-day skills competition and flag football game that will be played in Las Vegas the Sunday before the Super Bowl.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 26, 2022
With the NFL still wanting to showcase the skills of their elite players, various competitions have been involved as part of Pro Bowl week which was televised beginning in 2017. Under the new format, these skills challenges will likely take a much more increased role in the event.
Additionally, the NFL is tapping into one of its most marketable former players as Peyton Manning and his Omaha Productions will help out with the various events of this year‘s Pro Bowl.
Peyton Manning and Omaha Productions will help shape the skills competition programming throughout Pro Bowl week in Las Vegas. Manning also will be a key part of the coaching staff for the AFC vs NFC flag football game.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 26, 2022
So how will these changes effect the Pro Bowl rosters? According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the selection process for players will be the same when it comes to how many are chosen as well as the decision coming from both fan and player voting.
The Pro Bowl game has been replaced by "The Pro Bowl Games," but I'm told full rosters (44 per conference) will still be selected through fan and player voting. So, no impact on incentives, etc.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 26, 2022
Details still to come on format of the flag football game, which won't be 11-on-11.
With players having incentives built into their contract when it comes to Pro Bowl appearances, the NFL changing how they make the selection would likely get more pushback from the NFLPA had they not kept with the same standards which players have negotiated their contracts.
One thing that has not been addressed at this time will be how the NFL handles replacement players. Since the NFL moved the game to before the Super Bowl in the 2014 season, players selected from teams represented by each conference in the championship game obviously could not be a part of the Pro Bowl festivities. Additionally, players who were injured and unable to participate, or declined the invitation, needed to be replaced in order for teams to have full squads to play the game. Whether or not this will be necessary to the same degree is unknown at this time.
For anyone who has tuned in to the Pro Bowl in recent years, the product on the field only somewhat resembles the game they see throughout the regular season. Since putting the players in pads but having the game be so far removed from actual football has gone to such a magnified level, the NFL likely deemed it was better to embrace the fact that it wasn’t an actual football game than to try to continue to pawn it off as such.
The Pro Bowl Games following the 2022 NFL season are scheduled to take place the week following Conference Championship Weekend on January 27, 2023. The exact dates for the competitions have yet to be officially announced, but the final game, now a flag football game, is scheduled for February 5, 2023 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
So what are your thoughts on that NFL changing the format for the Pro Bowl following the 2022 NFL season? Is it a good idea for the NFL to make a change, should they have kept the game the same, or should they do away with any activities altogether? Will this change reflect your viewership in any way? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.