The Pro Bowl has unquestionably become a tough sell over the years, even though ratings for the game has gone up recently. Already a glorified scrimmage contest, the league continues to restrict performance measures within the game to remove it further and further from the real thing.
And after all, they are highly incentivized to do so. The offset of a mild bump in ratings to a star player getting injured—as Tyler Eifert did a few years ago—is not nearly substantial enough to do much as it concerns making the Pro Bowl look more like an authentic football game.
But one thing that it could be of benefit for is as an incubator for new ideas. Since the outcome of the game doesn’t matter at all, it is a breeding ground for experimentation, something that the NFL has increasingly taken advantage of in recent years.
There are a number of things that the league will be toying with during today’s installment of the game, but the most interesting will be the opportunity for the teams to have more than one player on the field with a communication helmet.
You know, the one with the ‘green dot’. The quarterback always has the green dot on offense. On defense, it’s usually a linebacker, sometimes a safety, and rarely any other position barring abnormal circumstances due to injury or a rare personnel formation.
These and other ideas are being tested with a purpose. If they work well, we could see them eventually be implemented into the rulebook, and I personally would love to see teams be able to communicate with more than one player.
At the very least, it cuts down on the effect of a mechanical malfunction. If a player’s headset goes dead, then they can’t get the play in from the sideline at all. At least if there is more than one player who can hear the call, the chain of communication doesn’t have to be broken.
But having multiple players, for example, on defense who are responsible for setting up their teammates could be a major benefit and time-saver, especially if an offense is trying to run the hurry-up. The faster you can get the call in from the sideline, the faster you can read and react to the offense.
Among the other innovations that the NFL is looking at is a 360-degree camera at the back of the end zone that will provide a complete view of the back line, which would be an asset in making judgement calls in review about potential scoring plays. The JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown from this past season comes to mind.