One of the biggest issues in the lack of attention being paid to the Pro Bowl is its timing. Playing it in the off-week between conference championship games and the Super Bowl is difficult. The players from the teams going to the Super Bowl, often the players everybody wants to see, cannot go. The players from other playoff teams that have just finished their season do not want to go. And the fans won’t care about watching a game where nobody cares after watching high-intensity playoff battles for three weeks.
But what if you pushed the Pro Bowl back to May, before OTA’s?
Yes, some players may sit after having surgery in the offseason, but that number would pale in comparison to the number of players that sit now. Yes, some teams may be hesitant to send players to the Pro Bowl, fearing injury before the season even starts, but a game with the effort level of the Pro Bowl poses very little risk of injury.
Playing an All-Star game outside the regular season is unconventional, no other sport does it, but that shouldn’t stop the NFL. The Pro Bowl is the only blemish on the NFL’s record.
Putting it outside of the regular season, in between the draft and the start of OTA’s, could maximize ratings. Fans hungry for action wouldn’t hesitate to tune in, even for a game that has been as bad as the Pro Bowl. The timing may conflict with rookie minicamps, but there are no rookies in the Pro Bowl. You don’t even need NFL coaching staffs. With Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin drafting the teams this season, why not let the entire coaching staffs be made up of former players? It would give familiar faces some airtime and allow for the NFL to use the Pro Bowl as a means to reflect on its history.
Some would hesitate to schedule it against the NBA and NHL playoffs, but the NFL doesn’t need to worry about losing ratings to other sports. The NFL has proven it is hard to beat when it goes up against other sports on television. The Pro Bowl could be no different.