No one knew it at the time, but the 2022 Pro Bowl was the last Pro Bowl that will be played in quite awhile.
The NFL announced Monday that it's doing away with the Pro Bowl in its current form, which has been played since 1951, and will replace it with The Pro Bowl Games, a week of skills competitions that will end with a flag football game.
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2022
NFL executive Peter O’Reilly told The Associated Press that the NFL has been looking for a Pro Bowl replacement for awhile, and after getting feedback from players, coaches, and general managers, the league chose this new direction to showcase the NFL's deep pool of talent.
"We think there’s a real opportunity to do something wholly different here and move away from the traditional tackle football game," O’Reilly said. "We decided the goal is to celebrate 88 of the biggest stars in the NFL in a really positive, fun, yet competitive way."
The NFL hopes these changes will eliminate the Pro Bowl's biggest concerns and drawbacks. The top stars of the game often decline (or aren't able) to participate in the Pro Bowl, either due to schedule or injury concerns. Since the game is functionally meaningless, no one wants to get injured in a tackle football game that's essentially an exhibition, so those that do participate are keen on minimizing that risk, which lowers the quality of play.
Putting the focus on skills competitions and a flag football game could minimize injury concerns and emphasize that playing football is actually fun, and the guys who play it aren't just good at it, they also enjoy doing it. Not much info is available now on the skills competitions, but the NFL said that they'll feature football and non-football skills.
Peyton Manning and his production company, Omaha Productions, have been heavily involved with the plans to replace the Pro Bowl. He will serve as one of the coaches for the flag football game, and hopes that changing the format will attract more kids and help grow the sport.
“The Pro Bowl has always been a time to step back and celebrate the game of football with teammates, fans and family,” Manning told the AP. “I’m thankful I can continue to be part of the week as all of us at Omaha Productions work with the NFL to reimagine The Pro Bowl Games. Making Sunday’s game a flag football game is great to see. Youth football has been extremely important to me, and knowing NFL FLAG will help grow this sport, I hope boys and girls can see themselves playing the same game as the best players in the world.”
Fan voting for the event will remain the same. Those chosen this season will take part in a flag football game at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 5, 2023.