Scooter Hobbs column: NFL’s future is flag football

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

Finally. It took years of trial and error. Frankly, a lot of embarrassment. Mostly, a whole bunch of expense-paid, fact-finding missions to Hawaii.

But the NFL has come up with a Pro Bowl we can all look forward to, maybe even be proud of.

There wasn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance or much fanfare. But they’re going to go with flag football.

Email newsletter signup

As I understand it, to better imitate the game as we know it, the way it will work is that after every play there will be a video review of the action. A group of highly trained (i.e. busybody) officials will then study each play until they detect some infraction they can justify throwing a “flag” for. And that’s how teams will move the ball up and down the field, completely at the discretion of the officials and their “flags,” which will be he only way to mark off yardage until …

Wait. Sorry. I was reading it all wrong.

The way it will actually work is it will be a common flag football game, like sororities play all over America every spring fling.

I wish I was making this up. But don’t be so quick to judge. The NFL is giving up claiming the Pro Bowl is a football game.

That’s a start.

Yet they still have inventory to dispose of and during this lull before the Super Bowl, they have to put something on TV whether anybody is gullible enough to watch or not.

So, best I can tell, although the literature is vague, what they are offering is a sneak peak into what the regular-season games will look like in three or four years. You know, once the rules outlaw — even with Tom Brady retiring — breathing heavily on or otherwise interfering with quarterbacks without a warrant or a note from your mother.

So flag football it is, for whatever coveted trophy the league can come up with, if just to prove that somebody will watch anything if it’s on TV.

There’s no “ManningCast,” sadly, suggesting it can’t be that big of a deal.

Instead, Peyton will coach the AFC and Eli will direct the NFC, proving once again there’s nothing those two wonderful cutups won’t do to get on TV.

Both have promised to (try to) keep a straight face and not bring any shame to Archie and Olivia.

As you might imagine, there are some rule “modifications” for this affair.

There’s little need for offensive linemen, for one thing, except both will utilize a center. It’s been suggested that the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott should handle that center-snapping chore for both teams after his breathtaking audition for the job on Dallas’ final play of the season.

But that’s unconfirmed.

So, you ask, who is playing in this game?

I don’t have a clue.

According to the NFL, “the best players from the NFC and the AFC go head-to-head.”

It also points out that being selected to the Pro Football is the highest honor an NFL participant can receive.

Key word: “Selected.”

To show up and bee seen “participating” in such foolishness is probably the most embarrassing thing that could happen to any professional athlete.

Joe Burrow, for instance, RSVP’d his regrets, although there’s no confirmation that his note read: “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

So the pecking order kicked in — short straw, perhaps — until one of the “Pro Bowl” quarterbacks will be Baltimore backup Tyler Huntley, who played in six games this season.

The games — yes, plural; did I mention it will be best two-out-of-three flag football games? — have already begun.

Some sort of skills competition started Thursday, when I’m guessing “taunting” and “contract hold-out” trophies were up for grabs.

Also dodge ball, where it should come as no surprise that the Saints’ DeMario Davis thought he had scored a victory until officials stepped in and, after further review, determined his “kill shot” had hit Saquon Barkley’s face, which apparently was illegal.

There will be other skills competitions leading up to the big games, including the always entertaining “Kick Tac Toe.”

Again, you have to figure the Dallas Cowboys were summoned to provide the kicker.

I know I can’t wait.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at