A Simple Solution to a Complicated Problem?

No, no, no, I'm not talking about shooting Jay Cutler to put him out of our misery.

Although I'm not totally against the idea. (As Judy Grimes would say, just kidding just kidding.)

Look, I get it--Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. He's undoubtedly more talented than the Vikings' current dynamic duo behind center. But I refuse to waste any more time talking about him because:

  1. The Vikings have nothing to offer that would entice the Broncos to trade him to Minnesota, especially compared to the plethora of other teams that are reportedly interested in him.
  2. It's becoming blatantly obvious that the guy is a solid mixture of a giant douche and a turd sandwich. It's OK to be a little miffed that your new coach was looking to trade you, but to burn his calls like a scorned junior high girlfriend is a bit much. I remember almost everyone on this site shunning the possibility of getting another me-first prima donna a few weeks ago--why is this one so different?

What I'd really like to discuss involves a small tweak to solve an issue that has been gaining some steam lately--the (un)fairness of the NFL's current overtime rule.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Peter King makes a couple of excellent points about overtime in a recent article:

In the last five years, 28 of the 72 overtime games played ended on the first possession of overtime, with the teams losing the coin flip not getting a chance to touch the ball. That's 39 percent of the games ending with one team touching the ball in overtime.

In the last five years, 72 of the 72 teams that won the coin flip to start overtime chose to receive. I keep hearing how the coin flip doesn't win or lose the games; teams do. True. But if the coin flip is so insignificant, why has no team since Marty Mornhinweg's Lions in 2001 chosen to kick off after winning?

First of all, feel free to chuckle again about Marty's infamous decision; yet another great chapter in the proud history of the Detroit Lions. I know I had a good laugh. But King is right on--if the overtime format is so "fair", why does the team that wins the coin toss run back to the sideline celebrating like they just won the lottery? Even the 2000 Ravens wouldn't have thought for a moment about kicking off to the other team in overtime. And they had Trent Dilfer!

I'm well aware that any reform to the overtime format has already been shot down at this year's NFL meetings, so you won't see changes any time soon. But I have a simple solution that may please everyone:

Get rid of punting in overtime.

That's it.

I'll admit that I didn't come up with this idea all on my own. Tuesday Morning Quarterback proposed an idea a few months ago that teams play a full fifth quarter but take away all field goals, punts, and PATs. It's a nice idea that would give both teams an adequate shot at winning (and without any kicks, a lower chance of ties), but the NFL Players Association would never go for it. Any overtime solution that always makes teams play 25% longer just won't fly with the players. (Note: I believe this is why Goodell's proposal of extending the season to 17 or 18 games is going to get a lot of backlash from the players unless they get paid a lot more, but that's for another time.)

Another solution that won't (and shouldn't) gain any traction is any variation of the college overtime rules, where each team gets equal possessions starting from a certain yard line. This would skew scoring statistics beyond belief. I know that the NFL doesn't care about all-time numbers like baseball, but fantasy football is a bajillion-dollar-a-year business. Could you imagine losing your fantasy football championship because the other guy's quarterback threw 4 TD's in overtime? I'm fairly certain that the college OT format would cause a rash of fantasy-related murders, and I don't think the NFL wants that on their hands.

The main gripe about the current overtime format is that "the game shouldn't be decided by a coin flip." While this isn't entirely true, I'm betting Peyton Manning and the Colts may agree with that after their playoff loss to the Chargers. If the NFL took away punts in the extra session and kept everything else the same, it would introduce actual strategy to overtime instead of leaving it to the luck of a coin flip.

For instance, let's say the Vikings go into overtime this coming season. Knowing that there are no punts and they would have to go for it on 4th down regardless of field position, would Childress trust T-Jax or RosenCopter to move it down the field enough to not give the opponents an easy field goal? Or would he let Minnesota's vaunted defense go out there and try to shut the other team down and give our mediocre quarterback a short field?

See?!? At the very least it raises the question of deferring to the other team. It's no longer a no-brainer. It's no longer just a coin flip. Just think about it--how much more exciting would it make overtime, knowing that teams have to go for it every fourth down? How much more fun would the blogosphere and talking heads have second-guessing coaches the next day? I truly don't see a downside to this.

Alas, this is probably a pipe dream. NFL owners are stubborn and the league has a very possible work stoppage looming in the near future that will take precedence over any paltry rule changes. But c'mon, at this point, anything is better than all of this Jay Cutler nonsense. We've beaten that dead Bronco enough. (See what I did there? Dead Bronco instead of dead horse? Zing!)

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