Last week, when Andy Reid was selected to coach “Team Rice” in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, there was an excellent chance the Kansas City Chiefs head coach would get to manage at least a couple of the five healthy Chiefs Pro Bowl players when the teams got picked Wednesday night. After the silly, fantasy football-style Pro Bowl Draft was held – and televised in prime time by The NFL Network – Reid ended up getting four Chiefs players on his team.
Four of the five healthy Chiefs in Honolulu, Hawaii – Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Travis Kelce, and Marcus Peters – were all picked to be on Reid’s “Team Rice”, while linebacker Derrick Johnson ended up on “Team Irvin”. (“Team Irvin” will be coached by the Green Bay assistant staff after Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy had to bow out Thursday due to illness.) Linebacker Justin Houston, the sixth member of the Chiefs 2016 Pro Bowl team, has been shut down for the foreseeable future to heal and rehabilitate his injured knee and will not play Sunday.
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The teams are named for their respective Hall of Fame captains, legendary wide receivers Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin, who were the so-called fantasy football owners that drafted their starting line-ups regardless of conference affiliation. After 43 years of the game being the best of the AFC squaring off against the best of the NFC (1970-2013), the format for the game was changed in 2014 to try and foster more interest. The game was also moved from being played the Sunday after the Super Bowl to the weekend in between the Super Bowl and the Conference Championship games.
The league tried to capitalize on the insatiable appetite of fantasy football players across the country, so out went teams based solely on conference affiliation, and in came a televised fantasy draft that is as interesting as watching paint dry. The Pro Bowl has taken a beating from critics over the years, but the calls for its demise got deafening in the last few years because of the rampant opting-out by stars who suddenly come down with injuries that wouldn’t keep them out of a game that really mattered.
The nadir of the game’s competitiveness came in 2012 when players on both teams had the equivalent of a pillow fight with virtually no tackling, hitting, or effort from either defense. It was then that even the game’s biggest supporters knew something had to be done.
According to the numbers, the Pro Bowl is the only major all-star game that draws lower TV ratings than its regular season games. However, to show the amazing off-the-charts popularity of the NFL, the numbers of viewers is comparable to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and better than the NBA’s or NHL’s all-star spectacles.
Reid and his coaches will be on the field at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu Sunday with a kickoff time of 5:30 CT. The game will be televised on CBS (KCTV-5 locally).