Editorial: The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge

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Photo courtesy of flickr.com via Google Images labeled for reuse with modification

Thursday, January 26th hosted the return of the previously retired Pro Bowl Skills Competition. Now rebranded as the Pro Bowl Skills Showcase. After years of playing around with the Pro Bowl to to bring attention to it, the league decided to bring back a skills competition. It brought back the throwing accuracy and best hands competitions, while bringing in new events such as a drone drop, relay, and dodgeball.

The drone drop was a head-scratcher when it was announced, however, it ended up being a success. The way it worked was a drone would carry a ball up to 75 feet and would drop it onto a waiting player ready to catch it. It essentially was like fielding a punt from directly above your head, which is no easy task, especially when the ball is dropped from as high as 125 feet where it starts to knuckle.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Kyle Williams described catching punts with the same knuckle action in practice to Deadspin.com, “It’s just like a knuckleball in baseball. It’s floating up there, and it will change direction probably three or four times within the last 5 yards, 10 yards, and then it’s right there. It’s tough to deal with.”

Odell Beckham Jr. caught a ball from 125 feet to beat former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry. The wide receivers also faced off in the best hands competition earlier in the day.

The best hands contest returned to this year’s competition and was a timed race with multiple spots that simulated sideline toe-tappers or required a one-handed catch. Odell posted a respectable time while dropping less passes than he did in the wild card  round a few weeks earlier. Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry followed and posted a time of 52.6 seconds which slipped by OBJ’s time of 52.8.

The power relay was introduced as an event that could finally show the linemen some love. It involved a player first pushing up a heavy wall before running through it and joining a teammate to pull to sleds and then meeting another teammate to push a 700 pound sled towards a waiting running back who then runs towards and through a wall. The event had a controversial start as the NFC team’s sled was stuck causing the AFC to breeze to a victory. A rerun was granted and the NFC came out with a comfortable win.

The throwing accuracy challenge returned with participants being Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, and Andy Dalton. Each player had one minute to hit as many targets as possible with them ranging from 1-5 points, and some were moving. Now LA Chargers QB Philip Rivers scored 20 which was enough to hold off 2nd place Andy Dalton’s score of 16.

After the first four events concluded, the conferences were tied with two points apiece with the AFC winning the Best Hands and Precision passing while the NFC took the Power Relay and Drone Drop. The last event was a game of dodgeball and it was worth three points.  

The dodgeball game consisted of two ten man teams with normal schoolyard rules. The game was one sided with the NFC winning easily, however those who watched did learn that Alex Smith is a horrendous dodgeball player.

With the actual Pro Bowl game being such a dud every year, the league might be onto something by returning competitive events where players can compete without worrying about sitting out the next season because a 250 pound linebacker decked them halfway to the grave. The skills challenge isn’t perfect but it is at the very least alright. And compared the the Pro Bowl, alright is a huge improvement.