One of the players who is often at the top of votes received for Pro Bowl rosters is Houston Texans All-World defensive lineman J.J. Watt. For an event that has struggled to find any relevance over the last decade as a growing number of star players opt out of playing in the NFL’s annual all-star game, the announcement that the NFL has canceled the 2021 Pro Bowl was met with a collective yawn.
J.J. Watt is taking the loss of the Pro Bowl hard pic.twitter.com/VwMd9lCJnb— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 14, 2020
For a guy who can exude a tremendous amount of fire and passion, this is a pretty telling response. However, the NFL is still trying to turn what’s become something of a non-event into a virtual event, which is certainly expected in the age of COVID-19.
The NFL has announced that this year's Pro Bowl rosters will be named, but no game will be played. Instead, the game will be replaced by "a variety of engaging activities."— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 14, 2020
To go one step further, the league also announced the 2022 Pro Bowl would, hopefully, take place in the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium.
NFL announces there won’t be a Pro Bowl this year but teams will be still announced. The 2022 Pro Bowl will be awarded to Las Vegas and take place at Allegiant Stadium.— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 14, 2020
While J.J. Watt may not exhibit signs of unbridled enthusiasm, the Raiders are happy to host next year’s outing.
NFL man in the know Albert Breer, always good at big-brain dot-connecting behind the headlines, lifts the curtain for a moment to show a possible ulterior motive for the cancellation of the Pro Bowl, aside from trying to reinvent a game that lost its luster and fan appeal years ago.
The NFL announces it's "reimagining" the Pro Bowl. The reality: the 2021 Pro Bowl is canceled. This also clears the way for an 18th week without having to move the Super Bowl.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 14, 2020
Pro Bowl was probably never happening this year anyway, for obvious reasons.
Wait? Week 18? The season is only 17 weeks long.
Now that the NFL has had to shuffle and postpone some games, they’re staring at the specter of either having to complete the season with COVID-affected teams completing less than 16 games or they’ll have to extend the season,
Mike Silver (via NFL.com):
According to a source familiar with the NFL’s scheduling scenarios, when the league decided Sunday morning not to play Broncos-Patriots on Monday night, it debated an indefinite postponement, which would essentially have put the “Week 18” scenario in play.
Instead, the Broncos-Patriots game was moved to next Sunday — and a contingency plan involving eight games, eight teams and six switched bye weeks was implemented. However, once a team that’s already had its bye can’t play in a given week, Week 18 will likely become a reality.
In a Week 18 scenario, the league would likely only play those games if they had a significant impact on the playoffs. It’s possible that if the game was, say, to decide whether a team was the fifth or seventh seed, the NFL would elect not to play it.
That said, Week 18 is likely a reality, and, depending upon future postponements — and with the possibility that a team could be impacted more than once (after having lost its bye week) — there could even be a Week 19 added.
Should this work out and provide a longer collective attention span for the NFL fan base than the Pro Bowl has recently, it just may open the door for Week 18 to become a regular thing. This could come with the possible incorporation of a second bye week to stretch the NFL season out, effectively grasping more of the coveted fan dollars than the NFL can in its current format. If we know anything, we know the NFL is greedy. So, I’d expect this to be a thing going forward.
Over the last several years, the NFL has tried changing the format of the Pro Bowl, incorporating more sandlot ball with Hall of Fame players picking teams, giving the fan vote more weight, and all sorts of other gimmicks to give the exhibition a shot in the arm. None of that has worked.
Meanwhile, down in H-Town, all the potential changes are taken in stride.
What do you think? Hardcore fan of the Pro Bowl? Gave up on it years ago? Too young to remember when it was fun and cool? Hope it never comes back?