Random News of the Day: Fixing the Pro Bowl


Random News of the Day: Fixing the Pro Bowl

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011
10:07 a.m.

By Joe Collins

The Pro Bowl is starting to resemble a routine Thanksgiving at Aunt Hildas: nobody really wants to be there (its kind of an unwritten obligation to show up in the first place), the smarter ones phoned in their I cant go excuse weeks ago, the day kindasorta revolves around football, theres a good chance the participants are slightly hung over from the night before and everyone just hopes they can get through the day and leave without getting hurt.

Woo hoo! Pro footballs All-Star Game! Yes!

The Pro Bowl has been the Glass Joe of organized football for quite some time now. OKOKmaybe its more Von Kaiser-like. But still, the game lacks a punch. Its abused even more by the players who dont show up. And it takes even more hits with the country club rules that are enforced (nothing says football like no blitzing). Finally, the game is kicked to the curb with in-game entertainment like(wait for it) The Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20 were unable to attend.

Sunday night's 55-42 track meet won by the NFC did not resemble football at times. It was like when one of your parents picked up a video game controller for the first time and tried to challenge you in a game of Madden. Im sure you would have put 42 points on the board before halftimejust like the NFC did to the AFC. Players were diving at feet, avoiding direct contact with the opposition and oleing players into the end zone. All-star football? Hardly. It didnt help matters that Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel combined to throw five interceptions.

Look, the game is an exhibition. Sports exhibitions are just thatexhibitions of talent, a display. Maybe its supposed to look like flag football at times. I know that the league has already Purrelled itself many times over, sterilizing the celebrations, helmet-to-helmet hitsetc. Maybe the NFL doesnt want to change the status quo and start enforcing real football for players who dont want to get hurt in the first place. I get that. But I think that, with a few tweaks here and there, the Pro Bowl can be put back on the map as a somewhat legitimate football experience. How about

Winners Get Paid, Losers Get Some Lovely Parting Gifts: Money is a great motivator. The members of the winning team currently walk away with 45,000. The losers get 22,500. Why not just combine the two figures and just round it up to 70,000 for each player on the winning team? I mean, just think of the car that could buy. The winners get cash and bragging rights. The losers walk away with a box of Tide.
Trick Plays Man-In-Motion Encouraged: Currently, Pro Bowl offenses have to use tight ends and there can't be any shifting. Hmm. Well, the game is already a showcase of offense (nobodys playing any defense anyway, right?), so why not hit the gas and liven it up a little? Julius Peppers as a man-in-motion? Done. Terrell Suggs in the backfield? Surewhy not. As long as the game doesnt get too gimmicky on offense, lets do it. As for the defense

The No Blitzing Light Has Been Turned Off: The NFL rules are clearly set up to protect the quarterback anyway, so turn the defenders loose. You'd think there would already be a gentlemens agreement or an unwritten rule not to spear the opposing quarterback in an exhibition game. But putting a little pressure on the QB or at least, showing a pulse-- would be nice.
Bonuses for every tackle: If you had a chance to watch the Pro Bowl Sunday night, the Alex Mack touchdown that ended the game looked like a bumper car ride at a county fair, minus the puke bucket. The defense tried to bump instead of tackle-- Mack as he rumbled down the sidelines for a touchdown. If you start throwing 500 incentives for every clean tackle, youd start to see the tomfoolery clean up pretty quick. Coach Bud Kilmer of Varsity Blues would love it. And I know that might sound a little contradictory to the trick plays entry up above, but hey: I'm just looking for equal contributions from both sides of the ball.

The devils advocate in all of this would say leave it alone. The game lit up the ratings nationally, with numbers biting at the heels of what is normally seen in the World Series. The 7.7 rating (12 share) was the highest numbers for the game since 2000. And Im surprised the numbers werent higher, given how the game was up against tumbleweeds on the sports calendar Sunday night. But it wouldnt hurt to boost the product. The NHL had captains picking teams during their All-Star weekend like it was 5th grade gym class. Maybe thats a start. Or maybe they combine elements of the Lingerie Bowl and the Pro Bowl. Talk about ratings, right? Whatever the case, the Pro Bowl needs to avoid turning into Thanksgiving: an event that induces people to pass out on the couch. Its definitely a fixer-upper project, but with a little TLC, it could be another dream house for the NFL.

Either that, or just get rid of it.

Or something like that.

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

While the Bears praised Mitchell Trubisky’s operation of a controlled gameplan in his second NFL start, they’re not losing sight of the special kind of athleticism and playmaking ability the rookie quarterback possesses. Two plays in particular stand out — plays that led to anywhere from a five-to-10 point swing in the game. 

Trubisky’s 18-yard third down completion to Kendall Wright in overtime seems to looks better every time you watch it on film. Trubisky was pressured by two Baltimore Ravens pass rushers, but managed to wriggle free and slide to his right, only to find linebacker C.J. Mosley waiting in front of him. The blend of athleticism and aggressiveness Trubisky displayed in firing high over the middle toward Wright — who made a specular play of his own — is one of the many reasons why the Bears are so excited about him. 

“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle – that’s why you draft a kid second,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Because of things like that.”

But there was another instinctual, athletic play Trubisky made that was just as impressive, and just as important. Cody Whitehair’s snapping issues cropped up at the Bears’ 13-yard line, with the center sailing a snap over Trubisky’s head and toward the end zone. 

If Baltimore recovered that ball, it would’ve tied the game; had Trubisky simply fell on the ball, it very well could’ve led to a safety that would’ve brought the Ravens within five points about a minute after the Bears took a 17-3 lead. Instead, Trubisky picked up the ball, scrambled to his right and threw the ball away — one of six throwaways he had on Sunday. 

“(That) was a critical, critical play at that time,” Loggains said. 

This isn't to say that two plays — only one of which gained yards — are enough to say the Bears' offense is in a good place. It's still a group that necessitates a controlled gameplan, similar to the one they used with Mike Glennon. But the difference: Trubisky can make plays. 

Briefly, on Whitehair

Since we’re on the subject of another poor snap by Whitehair, here’s what Loggains had to say on that topic: 

“He’s gotten better. We still had one too many. The thing and point I want to make with Cody Whitehair is, obviously wants to talk about the snap, but you’re talking about two weeks in a row of completely dominating. We’re an outside zone team that ran 25 snaps of inside zone because of what they were playing. It changed our game plan and Cody’s a big part of that. The last two weeks we’ve been able to move those guys inside. He’s a really good football player. 

“We’re going to battle through these snap issues. We’re cutting them down. He’s more accurate. He did have the one that obviously is unacceptable and no one owns that more than Cody Whitehair does. But he is a really good football player and let’s not lose sight of the 79 snaps where he really helped the team run the football and you can’t do that without a Cody Whitehair at center.”

Loggains has a point here — if Whitehair were struggling in the run game, against the defensive looks the Ravens were showing, the Bears wouldn’t have been able to run the ball 50 times with the kind of success they had. But the poor snaps nonetheless are ugly and have to be eliminated — imagine the uproar over them if Trubisky didn’t make that play in Baltimore. The Bears' offense won't always be good enough to overcome those kind of self-inflicted mistakes. 

Loggains and coach John Fox have praised Whitehair’s attention to the problem, and as long as Hroniss Grasu is still limited with a hand injury, Whitehair will have some time to work through these issues. One final thought: Who would’ve expected, back in May, that Whitehair would have the problems with snaps, and not Trubisky? 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Laurence Holmes (670 The Score) and Phil Rogers ( join Kap on the panel.

The crew discusses Bobby Portis’ suspension, Edzo’s return to the booth and the Bears' chances against the Panthers. 

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: