Faced with dwindling fan interest from a subpar game product, the NFL knew its Pro Bowl needed a drastic overhaul. And now, the NFL responded.
Replicating a successful model for the NHL All-Star Game, the NFL will hold a draft of its best players to be named Pro Bowlers. Fans will still vote players into the Pro Bowl, but beyond that, the game will not reflect previous versions.
No longer will players be divided into teams representing the AFC and NFC. Now, the top two vote getters will act as captains and draft from all the other players voted Pro Bowlers.
Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will join the top two vote-getters as "alumni captains" along with two winners of an NFL.com fantasy football contest. But the changes don't stop there.
Realizing that the game is just an exhibition and in an effort to cater to fans, each quarter of the game will feature a two-minute drill, encouraging quarterbacks to run the two-minute drill. Additionally, there will be no kickoffs in the game and teams will alternate possession after each quarter.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said in a statement. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
Foxworth presented the ideas for the revamped Pro Bowl to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who approved the new game.
“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” Goodell said. “From there, our office worked closely with him in developing the concept. The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever. We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players.”
Other rules designed to induce offense include a shorter play clock and increased stoppages of the game clock.
The Pro Bowl Draft will take place on January 22, and the Pro Bowl will be played January 26 in Hawaii. Coaches from losing teams in the AFC and NFC Divisional playoffs with the best regular-season record will guide the two Pro Bowl squads.