The NFL’s Pro Bowl experiment in Miami hasn’t even kicked off and already it’s a failure.
Consider this: The Most Valuable Player of the league and arguably the best player in the game — Peyton Manning — won’t be there. Obviously, when the Indianapolis Colts punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, it took all the best Colts players.
On the NFC side, the Saints, including sharpshooter Drew Brees, obviously won’t be represented in what was supposed to be the NFL’s “all-star’ game either.
Certainly over the years, the Pro Bowl has become sort of the joke of all-star games in the major team sports, taking a back seat baseball’s mid-season spectacle for sure, and even the NBA and NHL, who have the good sense to add in skills contests to perk up fan interest there.
To be fair, some guys take the Pro Bowl seriously. Titans veterans Kevin Mawae and Kyle Vanden Bosch — both late additions as alternates — always seem appreciative of the honors. But taking the game out of Hawaii, which had become kind of a reward in itself, and putting it the game the week before the Super Bowl are two unnecessary marks against an event that already is not well regarded in some circles.
If the league thought that having the game the week after the Super Bowl was bad in regards to players wishing to bow out because of minor injuries or just not wanting the hassle of a playing a meaningless game, now you the league’s two best teams have been eliminated from Pro Bowl consideration. How smart is that?
You need only look at the quarterback situation on the AFC roster to know something is amiss. Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all removed themselves from the game because of injuries, and now Manning won’t be there either because of the Colts reaching the Super Bowl. Those are the top five quarterbacks in the AFC who won’t be playing. It means Houston’s Matt Schaub, who had a breakout season because he finally stayed healthy, is probably your starting quarterback on Sunday.
And for better or worse for Nashville football fans, it means more time for the Titans’ Vince Young, who found himself added to the roster last week after Rivers declined. Not that Young didn’t have a solid year — he did. To bounce back from the depths he reached early last year is nothing short of remarkable. But still he played only about two-thirds of the season and no matter who it is, it’s hard to put up all-star numbers in just 10 starts.
At least Young brings this to the table for the AFC: He is now by far the quarterback with the most drawing power (read: ability to attract TV viewers) in the game for the American conference squad.
Despite shortened statistics, the Titans QB has far more star power than Schaub or David Garrard, who now steps in for Manning. Yes, that’s right, the same Garrard the Jaguars front office is debating about whether he or a draft pick should be the long-term answer at quarterback in Jacksonville. The same Garrard who had a respectable 10 interceptions, but offset that by losing eight fumbles this year.
It also means that none of the three quarterbacks currently playing in the game for the AFC participated in the playoffs this year. By that gesture, who’s next in line for the Pro Bowl? Brady Quinn? JaMarcus Russell?
Sadly, the quarterback quality only adds to the lack of allure already perceived about the game, and worse, it diminishes the star power of those like Titans star Chris Johnson, who is both appreciative and deserving of playing for the first time (he was injured last year) in a game designed to showcase the league’s best.
Obviously a redesign is in order as soon as this failed experiment is over.