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Zulgad: Bridgewater’s addition to Pro Bowl should be final straw for this game

By Judd Zulgad

The press release that landed in the e-mail inbox at 6:24 p.m. Monday caused a double-take from the recipient and triggered the immediate thought that someone had gone to great lengths to carry out a hoax.

The headline read: “Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater selected to first Pro Bowl.”

Barr’s name did not come as a complete surprise, but Bridgewater’s did. Yes, this was from the Vikings, but there was no way Teddy could be headed to the NFL all-star game, right?

Wrong.

This was no hoax. This was very real and solidified a long held belief: If Bridgewater’s presence is needed to conduct the Pro Bowl then this game should cease to exist.

This isn’t written to demean Bridgewater, but rather to point out how silly the exercise of attempting to conduct this game has become.

Bridgewater is a developing quarterback coming off an up-and-down second season in the NFL. He was 22nd in the league in both passing yards (3,231) and passer rating (88.7), while his 14 touchdown passes were tied for 26th and his completion percentage was ninth (65.3).

If the Vikings are lucky, Bridgewater will one day develop into a player who deserves to be recognized as an all-star, but the 23-year-old is nowhere near that point right now.

Bridgewater’s inclusion in Sunday’s game came only because the NFL was desperate to find players willing to make the trip to Honolulu and actually put on a uniform. There were six quarterbacks originally selected for this game and only one of them is going.

That would be Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Other than that, Bridgewater will replace Arizona’s Carson Palmer; Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston will replace New England’s Tom Brady; Oakland’s Derek Carr will replace Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers; the Giants’ Eli Manning will replace Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger; and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor will replace Carolina’s Cam Newton.

Newton and 10 of his Carolina teammates, along with four Denver players, have a good reason for backing out. They will be playing in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday.

But there are another 22 players who aren’t going because of injuries or personal reasons. The Vikings now have five players on the Pro Bowl roster, including running back Adrian Peterson, defensive end Everson Griffen, safety Harrison Smith, Barr and Bridgewater. Peterson was the only one of the five originally picked for the game.

Many Vikings fans will argue that there’s no harm in sending as many players as possible, but there’s also no real reason to do it. The NHL found itself in the midst of a controversy when tough-guy John Scott was picked to captain one of the league’s all-star teams via an Internet-voting campaign.

Scott’s selection makes the NHL look silly, and it’s failure to have voting guidelines in place to stop a known fighter from being put in the game was a mistake, but at least fans are getting what they voted on with Scott taking part.

The NFL is so far down its list of Pro Bowl alternates at this point that there is no case to be made that fans want to see what is going to be thrown out on the field Sunday in Hawaii.

So what’s the solution?

The best move would be to select the Pro Bowl teams, pay the bonuses to the players who have an incentive in their contract for being picked, and then provide them with a trip to Hawaii. Only there would be no game played and the weekend before the Super Bowl would be one without any pro football.

That, however, is never going to happen, in part because the Pro Bowl, somehow, actually pulls some decent television ratings.

So here’s the next best option.

This was presented by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com via Twitter on Monday night and makes a lot of sense.

Replace the Pro Bowl with a game involving first- and second-year players in Hawaii. It would be the NFL’s equivalent of baseball’s Futures Game at the All-Star Game. Only it wouldn’t be prospects but rather a group of players whose stars might be rising. Many of those players likely would welcome a trip to Honolulu and wouldn’t find a reason not to attend.

Bridgewater is the exact type of player who would be selected, and in this case he would be a deserving recipient of a roster spot.

The post Zulgad: Bridgewater’s addition to Pro Bowl should be final straw for this game appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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