February 5th, 2010 12:15 EST
The NFL made monumental changes to the Pro Bowl this year. So why was it as boring as always?
For the first time since 1980, the Pro Bowl returned to the mainland, trading sunny Honolulu for soggy Miami. As NFC receiver Steve Smith put it so politely and well, "It`s (Miami is) beautiful. It`s paradise....Too bad, it`s not Hawaii."
The NFL aslo put the cart before the horse, perhaps, by putting the Pro Bowl before, not after, the Super Bowl. Following the hype that is the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl couldn`t help but be a letdown, went the theory. Put the Pro Bowl first and let it be part of the buildup.
It makes some sense in theory. In reality, the color commentators spent a large part of the Pro Bowl speculating on the Super Bowl and ignoring the ignorable game at hand.
Furthermore, since the Super Bowl will be after the Pro Bowl, all the Saints and Colts players became spectators. In other words, no Brees and no Manning, the top two quarterbacks in the league now. No Favre, either. Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Schwaub (sorry, if I misspelled that but not sorry enough to look it up!) As an early round playoff game, it might be intriguing. As a Pro Bowl "marquee match-up", it is desultory.
This was a high scoring, high flying game, mainly because the excellent Pro Bowl defenders did not bother and furthermore, were not allowed to defend. As London Fletcher, a linebacker with the Redskins complained, "They had us....running around", chasing screen plays. Running around in a football game? Perish the thought.
Worse still, on several occasions, when the defense had a chance to sack (most notably, Tony Romo), they often pulled up intentionally and allowed a completion. After one such play, Romo could be heard saying that the defender was a "nice person." Maybe so, but "nice football", it was not.
On a goal line play, the defense was forbidden by the rules from assuming a goalline defense, presumably to avoid injury. As a result, not surprisingly, Maurice Jones-Drew of the AFC, walked in untouched. There were plenty of other soft tackles, weak blocks, and half-hearted runs. When Bruce Matthews was leveled by a strong, clean hit, he got up as if ready to punch someone. After all, who ever heard of knocking someone down in a football game?
I don`t care when you play the Pro Bowl (although including the Super Bowl team stars is important, methinks) or where (although why deny Honolulu it`s one moment in the football sun), but please make it into a football game. The NBA All-Star Game is fun and MLB puts on a good show. Even violent and injury-prone hockey does a lot better than the Pro Bowl lame fest. How about a midseason Pro Bowl with a real meaning (the winning side gets home field advantage for their conference in the Super Bowl)? Or how about just listing the Pro Bowl selections and giving them an award and saving us the displeasure of watching excellent football players just going through the motions?
Ready for the Super Bowl, anyone?