- Being named a “Pro Bowler” used to mean something for NFL players.
- But with almost half the selected roster declining the invitation in recent years, that is no longer the case.
- While the NFL has tried to come up with different “solutions,” nothing made a difference – until now.
There was a time when earning a Prow Bowl selection meant you were one of the best players in the NFL at your position. It was an honor, and stars took pride in it.
How the times have changed.
It’s difficult to call the Pro Bowl anything but a joke when it features guys like Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
— RB1: a fantasy football podcast (@RB1podcast) January 5, 2020
Xavier Rhodes, Three-Time Pro Bowler?
In fairness to the process, Rhodes was not voted in through the conventional manner. But as players decline invitations (Kansas City’s six selections and San Francisco’s four will not play, among others), the league has to name replacements.
That still doesn’t explain how the NFL landed on Rhodes – a defensive back who struggled at, well, playing defense – as one of this year’s replacement players.
Replacements may not always be elite, but you expect them to at least be good. It’s hard to say that about Rhodes with a straight face – at least after 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, of the 120 cornerbacks with 300+ snaps this season, only six graded worse than Rhodes.
But “three-time Pro Bowler” is now something Rhodes can put on his resume. Twenty years from now, when history looks back on the cornerbacks of this era, people will see that and think he was elite.
The NFL May Have Accidentally Discovered How to Fix the Pro Bowl
As crazy as it sounds, maybe there is a method to the madness here. What if the NFL is actually onto something?
For years, the Pro Bowl has endured a mountain of criticism as a pitiful example of professional football. Players don’t try because they don’t want to suffer an injury during an exhibition game.
Pass rushers might make their first step, but then they quit. Ball carriers go down without contact. Refs blow the whistle with amazing quickness.
Football already has a lot of standing around, but only in the Pro Bowl will you see players twiddling their thumbs in the middle of a play. It certainly doesn’t make for good TV. It makes for a lousy game, and it does the shield a disservice.
This is where seemingly-laughable selections like Xavier Rhodes come in.
Rhodes has to know his season was a disaster. There’s no way he is going to ignore the deluge of criticism and jokes at his expense today.
But as a professional football player, surely he has enough pride to desire to silence his critics. Enough pride to actually try.
Fill the Pro Bowl rosters with nobody but All-Pro disappointments like him— washed-up stars hungry and wanting to prove their worth – and the game might actually be good.