They did it. The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge is great. Like, really great! I am now the Pro Bowl's No. 1 proponent solely because I understand one obvious truth: Without it, the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown cannot subsist.
I write this, not as a company shill, but as someone who was legitimately shocked by how much joy I took out of watching the event. It was kind of sad, actually, so let's go 'head and push that darkness deep down inside. Let's unpack the proceedings ...
We immediately liked the idea of the Drone Drop, which was unlike anything we saw in skills challenges of yesteryear (more on that in a moment). Odell Beckham Jr. won it because he catches everything unless it's a Giants game in January. I liked how once you got in the 125-foot range the ball starts to really knuckle on you -- this event would kill the average man. One big takeaway: The advances in technology since the last challenge a decade ago (drones, Go-Pro cams, etc.) have really juiced up the proceedings. Way to go, scientists.
QB Precision Passing
I always liked the QB accuracy event in the old days because you could count on at least one franchise passer horrifically embarrassing himself with a dreadful showing (I'm looking at you, Jake Delhomme). Nobody totally bombed here, but it did offer a reminder of how damn good Philip Rivers is. Conor Orr put it well in his fine recap of the day's action: "I was not surprised in the least that Drew Brees was the only one who knew all the rules in advance. I was also not surprised that Rivers emerged victorious."
Power Relay Race
The Power Relay was fun because we got to see the big men do their thing. Watching offensive and defensive linemen push a 700-pound sled doesn't have the same sex appeal as OBJ spearing an oblong sphere dropped off the top of the Empire State Building by a robot, but it shows off the large human special skills and gets us to the good stuff: Ezekiel Elliott literally running through a wall.
Wow they have an event at the Skills Challenge that asks running backs to be the Kool Aid Manâ Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) January 27, 2017
Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball
Dodgeball had the most buzz going into the event. Honestly, I could've watched this for an hour. Instead, we got 10 minutes of a nostalgia-drenched playground game starring some of the greatest athletes in the country. Really, it's a no-lose proposition. Well, unless you're Alex Smith:
That is ice cold.
Final thought: The Skills Showdown went away once, and that should never happen again. The players were obviously into it, and Twitter tells me I wasn't the only person who enjoyed watching it on TV. ESPN and the NFL should blow this out and expand the scope by adding new and creative events every year, ala MTV's Challenge franchise. Hell, cut a huge check for T.J. Lavin and make him the host.
The only limit is our imagination, people.