Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) greets Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) after the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
If there was any lingering question about how far the NFL Pro Bowl has fallen in recent years, and how little the honor means for players in 2015, they were all answered with one comical announcement on Tuesday: Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been named to the Pro Bowl roster as a replacement for Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers.
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All in all, this seems like an equitable swap, don’t you think? Sure, Rodgers checks in as the number-two quarterback according to Quarterback Rating and ESPN’s QBR, as tracked on pro-football-reference.com, but Dalton comes in at a solid 25th, just between Shaun Hill and Cam Newton. You may prefer Rodgers’ 38:5 touchdown-to-interception ration, but the problem with that kind of gaudy success is that there is nowhere to go except down.
Dalton, on the other hand, has plenty to work on after throwing 19 TDs against 17 picks. He’s all upside, baby.
There was a time decades ago when the Pro Bowl was a kind of neat add-on to the post-season, a chance to see one more game AND the players you might never see during the regular season. Now, though, we can see whatever teams we like for sixteen weeks, not counting the preseason and playoffs, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, cable and satellite. The NFL already dominates the sports year, and one more week of fluff “competition” does nothing for their visibility. By continuing to push the Pro Bowl, Roger Goodell and company risk a bit of fan burnout, something that would have been just about unthinkable not long ago.
The players, too, are shying away from the “honor” of a Pro Bowl selection, as evidenced by the fact that Dalton was a seventh alternate QB. These guys all make plenty of money and have all the admiration they can handle, so there is little to gain from playing in another exhibition, and plenty to risk in the form of injury.
The writing has been on the wall for years regarding the demise of the NFL Pro Bowl, and Andy Dalton’s presence on the 2015 roster may just foreshadow a last gasp.