Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl’s New Format

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I have been critical in recent years about the lack of effort in the Pro Bowl but I must admit it appears the players got the memo from the NFL Commish. about playing like it’s a real game. The 2014 version of the Pro Bowl rolled out new rules and had the players drafted by former star players Deion “past his prime” Sanders (sporting a gray beard) and former 49er WR Jerry Rice who actually appeared like he could have played today.

“Past his prime’s” team were dressed like the Oregon Ducks of college football and Rice’s team wore white on white with orange socks like the old school ugly Buccaneer uniforms of the 70’s. Not sure what purpose changing the uniforms served or what was wrong with the old reliable blue versus red. But to me, Deion’s team appeared to have the Nike contract and Rice’s team appeared to play for a high school with a very limited budget. Just saying.

The Rules:
Of all the new rules, the rule change I enjoyed the most was not having calls reviewed or challenge flags. No stopping the game for 10 minutes only to get the call wrong anyway and then have that annoying “know it all” Mike Pereira come on the air and start reading the rule book to us like children. You know, where he explains to us that sometimes a catch isn’t actually a catch. It drives me crazy. I know a catch when I see one!

It’s not that I think the officials got every call right in this game as I imagine they didn’t, but the game had some flow to it for a change and I miss the days when coaches couldn’t throw a red flag on the field. Please Comish. I beg you to bring this rule back to the game permanently. No more call reviews.

This game had no kickoffs and while I think that can be an exciting part of the game, I didn’t miss it terribly. Typically the ball just sails through the endzone anyway resulting in no return and then another round of endless commercials. If it means less commercial interruption, then by all means can the kickoffs.

This Pro Bowl allowed the defensive linemen to run stunts and they did so with great success. Blitzing still isn’t allowed in this game but the offensive linemen struggled mightily to block the all star defensive linemen like the Cowboys Hatcher and JJ Watt of the Texans. It kept the scoring lower and may not suit all NFL fans, but I think it kept the game more competitive and interesting.

Also each quarter was treated as the end of a half with a 2 minute warning. I found this rule unnecessary and a bit annoying. Offenses tend to move at a fast pace these days anyway.

Tyron Smith:
The Cowboys young all star tackle played on the right side and was taken to school by JJ Watt in this game over and over again. Smith also had an offsides penalty near the goal line that hurt his team’s chance to score. I think Smith will be back to more Pro Bowls in the future and will play better next time.

Frankly I don’t blame Smith for turning Watt loose when the NFC East rival Eagles QB Nick Foles was behind him.

Physical Play and friendly fire:
It seemed odd watching players from the same teams blowing each other up but this game had that element. And I must admit I found it entertaining. Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson smashed his teammate RB Jamal Charles, like he owed him money or something. I will take that kind of physical play over the gentle tackling we saw in this game a couple years ago.

In the future, it wouldn’t surprise me to see QBs skipping the Pro Bowl game to avoid risking injury. The days of politely allowing the QBs to conduct 7 on 7 drills during this exhibition game are over baby.

Exciting Finish? Kind of…
The game came down to a last minute two point conversion which gave team Rice the win. While an exciting finish in football terms, it occurred to me with players from the same teams on opposite sides, I didn’t really care who won the game even less than I did in past years. Didn’t know whether to cheer for Smith blocking the way for the winning score or yell at Hatcher for not stopping the score. Kind of surreal.

But still overall an improvement over recent years as players got after each other, and a step in the right direction for sure.

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