With the NFL Pro Bowl Skills Showdown, will there be more interest in the competition than the Pro Bowl itself?
The NFL Pro Bowl has been on life support for a few years now. There have been many efforts to try and revive the interest in the Pro Bowl, including a fantasy football type draft system featuring stars of the past, but the interest level with the fans has remained at the same level that most players have in actually playing in the Pro Bowl, low.
This year, changes are afoot once again. The Pro Bowl returns to it’s original format this season of pitting the AFC versus the NFC, and the game has been moved to Orlando, Florida. The game will be in Orlando for the next three seasons, which may cause even more players to turn down their invite to the Pro Bowl then in years past, simply because Hawaii is a bigger draw for the players in the offseason than Orlando, Florida is.
The rate at which players accept their invites to the NFL’s version of an all-star game is alarming. There have been a total of 35 players who were originally invited decline their invitation to the Pro Bowl, meaning only 57% of those originally invited will attend. Of the six quarterbacks invited to the game originally, only Dak Prescott accepted his invite. This number is actually an improvement over last year, as the 2016 Pro Bowl was the most declined invitation in history.
See you at the #ProBowlSkills Showdown!
Thursday Night (7pm ET) on @ESPNNFL! pic.twitter.com/AQnqpL5FhO
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2017
Another change made this year is the addition of the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown, which for some, seems to be attracting more interest than the game itself. The Skills Showdown is a modern remake of the NFL’s Skills Challenge, which has been on a ten year hiatus. The competition will pit the AFC against the NFC much like the Pro Bowl itself, but will feature team captains for each conference. Ray Lewis and Jerome Bettis will represent the AFC while Tony Gonzalez and Charles Woodson will lead the NFC.
The Pro Bowl Skills Showdown will feature five different events:
- Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball- Although having nothing to do with football, watching NFL stars compete in a game of dodgeball should be extremely entertaining.
- Best Hands Competition- This will be a skills competition searching for the best wide receiver-quarterback duo from each squad. Each duo will compete to see which team can connect on the most pass attempts in the allotted time frame.
- Precision Passing Competition- Two players (not necessarily quarterbacks? Maybe Patrick Peterson?) from each team will compete to hit moving targets that will vary in size and distance.
Skills is what I do cat! You guys should already know this. But for those who don't tune in to @NFL skills showdown.👀 #TakingAllChallengers pic.twitter.com/yNY4w3qx4V
— Patrick Peterson /P2 (@P2) January 24, 2017
- Power Relay Challenge- Four members from both the AFC and NFC teams will compete against each other in a timed relay race.
- Drone Drop- A competition that reminds us that this isn’t your father’s football challenge. This competition was a late add to the card and will feature drones dropping footballs from the air.
Check out the Drone Drop at the #ProBowlSkills Showdown!
Thursday night at 7 pm ET on @ESPNNFL. https://t.co/0kjPPJDonW
— NFL (@NFL) January 25, 2017
With a decreased chance of an injury that could impede payers chances of getting paid, the competition at the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown might just be more intense than the Pro Bowl game itself. Looking toward the future, if the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown is successful, the competition itself may become a bigger draw than the Pro Bowl, or replace it completly.