Over the past few years, the NFL Pro Bowl has been looked at more and more as a joke. . .you know, if that's possible. But the league announced today that they have decided to change the format of the game, starting with this coming year's contest.
From the press release that was put out by the NFL today:
Gone is the familiar AFC vs. NFC match-up that has existed since 1971. Instead, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. For example, the top six quarterbacks following voting will earn distinction as All-Stars, regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.
Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions - who will attend the Pro Bowl - to draft players. One of these champions will earn their spot as part of Lenovo's Fantasy Coach of the Year program, which provides NFL.com fans a chance to be rewarded for their fantasy football skills. The other champion can compete for a Pro Bowl role by playing at NFL.com/fantasy.
The fantasy football champions will have Hall of Fame help. Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni team captains, assisting the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.
This is not a completely foreign concept for all-star games in professional sports. The National Hockey League has been doing this for a couple of years now (prior to this year's lockout, anyway). But I sort of like the idea that they're using here.
There are going to be some other changes for this coming year's game as well.
- Game within the Game - A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct "two-minute drills," which are especially exciting for fans.
- No Kickoffs - The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
- Rosters - The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- Cover Two and Press Coverage - The defense will be permitted to play "cover two" and "press" coverage. In previous years, only "man" coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
- Stopping of the Game Clock - Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
- Game Timing - The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock - A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks - The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
What do you think about the changes to the Pro Bowl format? Do they make you any more or less interested in the game than you previously had been?