Give the NFL credit. It’s doing it’s best to do the impossible.
No, not make Thursday Night Football appear like a necessary and enjoyable part of the football experience. It’s doing the same thing to the Pro Bowl.
The league recently hosted of skill competitions leading up the annual All-Star game on Sunday night. It knows the quality of football seen during the game is worse than a pick up game held in a backyard in Anytown, USA. So they’re trying to spice it up anyway they can. Which could lead the question….why fix what’s perpetually broken in the first place?
Which leads to the potential of the idea of the headline…bringing back the Playoff Bowl.
“Playoff bowl” is a term that could be better applied to college football, with the College Football Playoff rage in full swing. But back in the 60’s, it was just a fancy term for the NFL’s third-place game, contested between the league’s losing semifinalists. Once the AFL made football even more fun with in 1970, the Playoff Bowl was cast aside, with some other game called the Super Bowl slowly but surely gaining popularity.
At first glance, replacing the Pro Bowl with the Playoff Bowl seems to be an exercise in further futility. If players aren’t going to put forth their best effort for an all-star game, why would they put in their effort for a third-place game? But let’s see this game for what it would be…a glorified preseason game. This could be an opportunity to see players…backups, free agents to be, for example…actually try in a game for one last time (other than that pesky Super Bowl of course). Jobs could be on the line. Names could be made. Contracts could be earned. The Pro Bowl is pretty much two hand touch, but with those conditions on the line, it could give us one last tackle football game to enjoy before the long, cold, and later warm, offseason. Starters wouldn’t even have to play the whole game. Preseason games still draw viewers to the screen, as people will do almost anything to tell each other they’re watching NFL football.
Also, look at the matchups…or would-be matchups…we would have seen. Perhaps by no coincidence, some third-place games that never happened ended up being Super Bowl tilts shortly after. This year’s Super Bowl LI showdown, for example, is a matchup of the losing semifinalists from the 2014 playoffs. Another includes Baltimore-San Francisco in 2012. A matchup in 2015 would’ve been interesting to see, as it featured two FURIOUS teams in Indianapolis and Green Bay, with the Colts steaming from the Deflategate controversy and the Packers stewing over the fourth quarter lead they had blown in Seattle. Now wouldn’t you have liked to see those two teams take the field, angry for ever so slight redemption, after two of the toughest playoff defeats in their respective franchise’s history.
The Playoff Bowl revival does have its flaws and critics. The name behind the Super Bowl trophy, Vince Lombardi, was the game’s most outspoken critic referring to the game as the “S*** Bowl” and the annual host of the game, Miami’s Orange Bowl as “hinky-dink” (though ironically he would later win Super Bowl II in the same venue). But when it comes to the Pro Bowl…an exercise in futility that has had wayyyyy too many reps…the time for excessive football foolery is over. One more game…before that gosh darn Super Bowl, of course…before the dreadful dreary offseason hits…is it too much to ask for?