Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NFL Changes Overtime Rules

On the heels of the New Orleans Saints winning the NFC Championship Game in overtime without the Minnesota Vikings even touching the ball on offense, the NFL owners voted 28-4 (Buffalo, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Cincinnati voted against the measure) to change the overtime rules ONLY for the playoffs for a one year trial period. Here is a breakdown of the new playoff overtime rules according to the NFL:

- Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case that team is the winner.

- If the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession, the other team shall have the opportunity to possess the ball. If the second team scores a touchdown on its possession following the first team's made field goal, the second team is the winner. If the score is tied after both teams have a possession, the next team to score is the winner.

- If the score is tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period, or if the overtime period's initial possession has not ended, another overtime period will begin, and play will continue until a score is made, regardless of how many 15-minute periods are necessary.

A few reasons cited by the owners for making the change to the playoff overtime rules are:

#1) Since 1994, the team that wins the coin toss won the game 59.8% of the time.

#2) Since 1994, the team that won the coin toss won the game on the first possession of the game 34.4% of the time.

#3) In 1994, the kick-off was moved from the 35 yard line to the 30 yard line giving the receiving team better starting field position.

#4) The field goal kicking accuracy has dramatically improved in recent seasons.

The new overtime rule is an improvement over the old rule but I have two problems with the new rule:

#1) The new overtime rules only applies to the post-season not the regular season. The owners reserve the right to extend the rule to the regular season at their meeting in May but if they like the rule so much why not make it applicable to both the regular season and post-season right away? Owners cited player safety as their reason for not extending the new overtime rules to the regular season. If the owners are so worried about player safety, why are the owners trying to add two regular season games to the NFL schedule (would increase the regular season from 16 games to 18 games)?

#2) The new overtime rule still does not guarantee that both teams touch the ball on offense in overtime. I am not a huge fan of the current college football overtime system but at least both offenses get to touch the ball. Under the new NFL playoff overtime rules, it takes a touchdown on the first possession for only one team to touch the ball, which still deprives the opposing offense from getting a chance in overtime. Even if a team scores a touchdown on the first possession the opposing team should get a chance to match that touchdown, then the game can go to sudden death.

My Solution:
If any regular season or post-season NFL game goes into overtime, play a 15 minute overtime period. Treat the overtime period like the 4th quarter of an NFL game with a two-minute warning except each team gets 3 time outs and all challenges are initiated from the booth. The team with the most points at the end of the period wins. If the game is still tied at then end of one overtime period, then go to the new overtime rule that was just adopted.

Owners and players would say to this because of the increased exposure to injury but if you want to please the viewer the NFL should adopt my overtime rule. Every team that wins the toss would choose to receive the ball but after that there would be a ton of strategy. How much time should teams take off the clock before scoring? Should teams go for it on 4th down in certain situations? Trust me, no mater the score, viewers would not change the channel because anything can happen...the strategies involved are endless.

I know my overtime rule will never see the light of day but at the very least the owners should make the regular season and post-season overtime rules consistent.

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