I’m all for new ideas — creative things to keep sports from getting stale. But I’m not for stupid ideas and stupid is knocking on the NFL’s door and it looks like the NFL is going to let stupid in.
The NFL Pro Bowl is coming up this Sunday and it will draw a television rating that is almost insane to comprehend. It’s a television rating that will be somewhere in the 5 to 6 range. That’s a number that tickles the underbelly of a World Series game. We’re talking about a game that the players don’t care to show up for, and those that do show give less effort now than ever before. The rules for the game are jacked up to the point where the game is almost imperceivable to a regular NFL game:
- No motion or shifting by the offense
- Offense must have a running back and tight end in all formations
- Intentional grounding is legal
- Defense must run a 4–3 at all times
- No blitzing
- No blindside or below the waist blocks
- No rushing punts, PATs or FG attempts
- Kickoffs are eliminated: Teams will start on their own 25-yard line after any score or at the start of each half.
- 35-second play clock to run plays
- Deep middle safety must be aligned within hash marks
Thank you Wikipedia for that list
Add into the mix that the teams have just a week to practice together and what you have is barely an NFL game. But it still gets a more than a respectable rating. Why? ‘Cuz it’s football and we’ll watch guys run around wearing the helmets of our favorite teams as we fantasize what it would it be like if star player A also played with star player B, C and D on our team for a whole season.
The Pro Bowl I’d Like to See
What I would love for the Pro Bowl to do some year — if it was even possible — is to have GM’s from both leagues assemble the two best teams possible. We’d give them a month to practice, and put an insanely huge pot of money on the field for the winning team — along with a little bit of “thanks for coming” money for the losing team.
What number would it take to get the players intrigued?
How about $10 million dollars to each player on the winning team? So that would be, let’s see (oh jeez Czabe’s doing math!) a 53 man roster at $10 million each — that would come out to $530 million dollars. About a half a b-b-b-b-billion dollars!
Now, that might seem crazy and you’re thinking the Shield would never go for that.
But let’s think about it, ESPN’s deal with the NFL for Monday Night Football is $15.2 billion for 8 years. According to my math (yes, twice in one post I’m doing math) that comes out to $1.9 billion per year. So, really what I’m talking about here is taking a little over 25% of ESPN’s money and putting it towards a full rules, full tackle, full hitting NFL football game with two 53-man teams comprised of the best players in the world and a month of practice. Wouldn’t star players — even the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees — want to play in one game against the best players in the world for a $10 million payday?
Can’t you just hear Tony Romo and his “oh, here we go!”
But no. What we’re going to get this Sunday in the Pro Bowl is not the “Super Game” like the one I envisioned above. No, this year, we’re going to get even more rules experimentation by The Shield.
A Solution in Search of a Problem
The NFL has said, this year, they are going to implement a trial run of the “4th and 15” alternative to onsides kicks. It’s where instead of kicking it, the “kicking team” can run one play starting at their own 25. If they advance the ball 15 yards, then they keep the ball. If they don’t make it 15 yards, then the “receiving team” gets the ball wherever the play ends.
What’s so bad about that?
How about everything! Yeah, I’m the guy that says the rules can be whatever you want them to be. But the rules shouldn’t be stupid and they shouldn’t be nonsensical. Oh, and how about this, any rule change you push through should address an actual problem.
This “4th and 15” is a solution in search of a problem. The current onside kick rules are not a problem. You’ve got 10 angry men on one side and a guy kicking the fall and then . . . here comes the boom. Here comes the way humanity was supposed to be on the tip of the spear. It gets us up on the edge of the couch literally waiting to see which way the ball bounces.
I would imagine this is a play that only appears in what, one out every five games in a season? I’m just making that stat up, but you get my point. It’s one play, once every five or so games and we’ve decided it’s too dangerous and we’ve got to get rid of it. Well, the whole fucking game is dangerous. That’s why we are mesmerized by it.
But they’re serving up this “4th and 15” with arguments such as ”you know, the chances of recovering an onsides kick is so small, so it’s not as fair” or “the conversion rate of the 4th and 15 is similar to conversion rate of recovering an onside kick, but imagine the fun of it!”
Well, a lot of things might be fun in the abstract, but there’s no problem with this thinking and it lies in the fact that there was never a problem here and now this is a dumb rule. What I fear is once you let stupid in the door, stupid sits down and puts itself at the table and says “I’ll stay for dinner”.
This has a high likelihood of being enacted as an official rule. And then, wait until the quarterback on a 4th and 15 — the most important guy on your team — gets debacled on a full blitz or blows out a knee on a low hit.
Why not have a drone drop the football? Yeah, a drone drops the ball at mid-field and see who recovers it? And we could give the coach one green flag for a “drone drop-kick” and he could hold on to that precious green flag until his team really needs the ball back. Is now the time you are going to use your green flag for the Drone drop kickoff alternative?
Before you know it, stupid is pushing back from the table, taking off its belt and asking “what’s for dessert?”
This article was transcribed from an episode of the CzabeCast. Click below to listen, or download on all the major podcasting platforms.