The last few decades have seen a lot of debate about the value of the NFL’s annual Pro Bowl, including from concerns about injuries and from players not going all-out in efforts to avoid injury. That’s led to declining viewership, including just 6.7 million viewers last year, the lowest number since 2009. And the NFL has now done away with the traditional Pro Bowl, replacing it with a “Pro Bowl Games” week.
The new week will include skills competitions and then a flag football game in the regular Pro Bowl slot on the Sunday before the Super Bowl. This year, that will be on Feb. 6 in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Rob Maiddi of The Associated Press broke that news Monday:
BREAKING: The NFL is replacing the Pro Bowl with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game, the AP's @robmaaddi has learned.
The new event will replace the full-contact showcase started in 1951 and will be renamed "The Pro Bowl Games."https://t.co/FjZGYZlHA0
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) September 26, 2022
As Maiddi’s piece notes, the league has brought in Peyton Manning and his broadcasting company Omaha Productions to help revamp the week and the game. Here’s what Manning (who received 14 Pro Bowl invitations, tied for second all-time behind Tom Brady’s 15) told Maiddi about his role:
“The Pro Bowl has always been a time to step back and celebrate the game of football with teammates, fans and family,” Manning told the AP. “I’m thankful I can continue to be part of the week as all of us at Omaha Productions work with the NFL to reimagine The Pro Bowl Games. Making Sunday’s game a flag football game is great to see. Youth football has been extremely important to me, and knowing NFL FLAG will help grow this sport, I hope boys and girls can see themselves playing the same game as the best players in the world.”
Here’s how the NFL later announced it:
Introducing the 2023 Pro Bowl Games presented by Verizon. 🙌
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2022
The decision to end the tackle Pro Bowl got a lot of Twitter discussion. Some are just happy the traditional game is gone:
Pro Bowl Gone! Sucked for years! https://t.co/bQllwnfAws
— Todd N Tyler (@tntradioempire) September 26, 2022
I don’t think anyone will miss the Pro Bowl
— Brandon Pope TV (@BpopeTV) September 26, 2022
And some like the idea of the new approach:
Finally! A skills competition. I’ve been saying that forever. Will be a lot of fun and way more entertaining than the Pro Bowl. https://t.co/rjKb6bUxR1
— Michael Stets (@Michael_Stets) September 26, 2022
This is a really good idea.
— Ryan Gorman (@GormoExJourno) September 26, 2022
The @NFL is FINALLY doing what I've been asking all professional sports leagues to do with their "All-Star" games for years. Remove the actual game and replace it with a fan fest and other activities for the players. Bravo! #ProBowl now #ProBowlGames
— Michael Collins (@MCFanSided) September 26, 2022
— Mike McFadden (@MUTGuru) September 26, 2022
The NFL announces it's eliminating the traditional Pro Bowl and replacing it with a week-long celebration of skills and games, culminating in a flag football game.
Personally — I love this move. I selfishly love the idea of promoting flag more.
— Arielle Orsuto (@ArielleOrsuto) September 26, 2022
I have to tell you. I love the Pro Bowl Games idea. The skills challenges are *always* the best part of the weekend.
The game is always awful.
— BiasedGirl (@BiasedGirl) September 26, 2022
Some aren’t convinced the flag game will be better, though, and noted that there are still injury concerns.
Making the pro bowl a flag football game. Is what it's been for years now. So what's new? BTW guys could still get hurt in a skills competition that ultimately means nothing. Just honor and recognize them. I wasn't watching the current pro bowl. Will you watch a skills comp?#NFL
— Carl Dukes (@putemupcdukes) September 26, 2022
We’ll see how this decision turns out for the NFL, and how many people tune in for the new events.
[The Associated Press; photo of the Pro Bowl logo on the field ahead of the 2022 game from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]