The mass exodus of the 2016 Pro Bowl should really be the death blow for the NFL’s all-star game.
According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the original 86 players voted to the Pro Bowl has now swelled to 133—setting a new record for total Pro Bowlers in one season. The previous high was 119, set in 2009.
A game so watered down needs to be scrapped or significantly altered.
Just do the quick math. There are 32 teams in the NFL, with 22 combined starters on offense and defense and five qualifying special teams slots (kicker, punter, long snapper, return specialist and special teamer). So, 27 per team, times 32 teams. Overall, roughly 15 percent of the NFL’s starters were named to the Pro Bowl this season.
At no position is the NFL’s all-star game more flawed than quarterback.
Of the original quarterbacks voted in, only one—Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks—remains. Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers won’t play, due to injury, choice or participating in the Super Bowl.
Without those seven, the NFL was left with this mostly gnarly group of Pro Bowl quarterbacks: Wilson, Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. All will receive “2015 Pro Bowler” on their respective resumes.
Wilson played like an MVP in 2015. Carr, Manning and Taylor had productive but far from spectacular seasons, while Bridgewater threw just 14 touchdown passes in 16 games, and Winston produced 17 turnovers and a 84.1 passer rating. The definition of a Pro Bowler has never been so loose.
But quarterback isn’t the only position with players fleeing.
Five of the six outside linebackers have been replaced. All three of the free safeties are alternatives. Two of the four tight ends and three of the eight receivers won’t play.
The Pro Bowl continues to lose prominence. The more players who decline to participate, the more watered down the product becomes. And when an event dubbed an “all-star game” becomes a rag-tag collection of whoever the NFL can find to play, the Pro Bowl loses more and more importance amongst players and fans. The snowball effect has led us here.
Pro Bowlers should continued to be named, but the NFL might as well eliminate the actual game. Without the game, there would be no need for the ridiculous amount of alternatives when the biggest names bail.