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Do the NFL overtime rules need to change?

We’ve been down this road before Vikings fans, haven’t we?

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Good morning kids, did you get a long weekend with the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday? I did, spent the day out and about, and enjoyed some Paytonfreude whilst browsing the Interwebs. It’s a full two days later, and quite frankly I’m still relishing in the fact that Saints fans can’t get over their loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship:

Yeah, good luck with that. Also, the comic sans font never seemed more appropriate.

Two big fallouts from the conference championship games have now led to potential rule changes the NFL may consider once the season is over. One, from the NFC Championship, is making pass interference calls (or non-calls, I guess) something that can be reviewed if the coach were to throw a challenge flag.

Personally, I think it’s a stupid proposal and would slow the game down even more. And if you can add in one penalty to make it reviewable, eventually they’ll add in other penalties that can be reviewed, and it just seems like a slippery slope the NFL shouldn’t travel down. Also, quit being so butthurt over a bad call. Be more butthurt your Hall of Fame QB threw a remarkably brutal interception at the worst possible time. Be more butthurt your defense let the Rams back into the game after going up 13-0.

In other words, get over it. What’s that? You aren’t?

A used car salesman talking about getting screwed over. Ironic, don’t you think? A little tooo-ooooo ironic, yeah I really do think. (You’re welcome for the earworm).

But on to the main point of this post. The other big discussion centered around what happened in the AFC Championship. In overtime, the New England Patriots won the coin toss, went down and scored a touchdown, and the Kansas City Chiefs never even got the ball. As we are all too painfully aware here, overtime rules were changed after the 2009 NFC Championship, so both teams could have an opportunity to get one offensive possession, assuming the team that got the ball first in OT didn’t score a touchdown on their initial possession. In that case, the game is over, which is what happened to the Chiefs.

Does that need to change, though? If you’re more of a football purist, you probably think the current overtime rules are fair. And they are. You get a kickoff and a chance to return the ball, and if your defense can keep the opposing offense out of the end zone your team gets the ball, even if they give up a field goal. For folks that think the Chiefs got screwed by not getting the ball, I say don’t give up three third and 10 conversions on the winning OT drive and hold the Patriots to a field goal.

So, do I THINK the rules need to be changed to make things ‘more fair’? No. All in all it’s a pretty balanced way to decide a game, and it makes offense, defense, and special teams all critical for success.

But do I WANT the rules to be changed? Yes...yes I do. I get that the NFL is a business, I do. But it’s also equal part entertainment, and for my money nothing is more entertaining than college football overtime. In college, teams start out at the opponent’s 25 yard line. If they score a touchdown, the other team has to score a touchdown. If they do, on to another overtime. If the team that gets the ball first kicks a field goal, the opponent has to kick a field goal to continue. If the other team scores a TD though, game over. If the team that gets the ball first doesn’t score, then a field goal by the other team wins it.

If they match touchdowns and extra points after two overtimes, starting at the third overtime until the conclusion of the game teams must go for two after scoring a TD. If no one scores on their first possession, then it moves to sudden death, and the game is played until there is a winner. There are no ties.

Is it football purity? No, not even close, and I’ll be the first to admit that. There is no kickoff as the ball is pre-positioned, and the punt is eliminated, too. Scores can also be wildly inflated if a game goes to four, five...or even seven overtimes, as we saw happen in the SEC last year.

Is it entertaining as hell, though? Yeah, it sure is. I would make a couple of modifications so the chances of a Texas A&M vs LSU game would be minimal, but it would still be wildly entertaining. I would adopt the current NCAA overtime rules, but with two modifications:

  1. Teams start at the opponent’s 40 yard line. The NFL has been trying to eliminate kickoffs and kickoff returns in recent years, so this continues down that road. If the offense can’t get a first down, a field goal attempt would be anywhere from a 48 to 57 yard attempt, assuming they didn’t lose any yardage on the possession.
  2. Teams must go for two starting with the first overtime.

For one, this would be a lot more entertaining to watch. It guarantees both teams get at least one possession, and it will forever eliminate the tie. Special teams are still in play, as a field goal can still win it, but by starting at the 40 it’s a dicey kick for a lot of NFL kickers anymore, and three points is no sure thing if the offense can’t make a first down.

Making teams go for two points right away instead of kicking an extra point will probably eliminate games going longer than the current 10 minute overtime period does in terms of total plays called. And if the NFL is serious about player safety, I think this is something that they really need to look at. For example, there were two overtime games that went the full, 10 minute OT period that had games end in a tie this past season. In the week two, 29-29 tie the Vikings and Packers played in Green Bay, there were a total of 18 plays called in OT. In week one, Pittsburgh and Cleveland played to a 21-21 tie. In that game, a total of 29 plays were called in the overtime period. Heck, in the AFC Championship, the Patriots ran 13 plays in OT, and the Chiefs didn’t even get the ball.

By contrast, last November Ohio State and Maryland played a wild, 52-51 game that went to a single overtime. There were a total of 10 plays called in that game, which ended when Maryland failed on a two point conversion. I use that example because Maryland went for two points right away to win the game (although they didn’t have to)...and it was the first college OT game that came into my head without looking, Buckeyes fan and all that. If you want to compensate for the difference between the 40 yard line and the 25 as a starting point, let’s do that. And just for the sake of argument, let’s say that both teams needed three additional plays to get a first down to about roughly the same point OSU and Maryland started, the 25 yard line.

That’s still just 16 plays, 13 less than the Vikings week two game, and only three more in a the single possession OT game we saw on Sunday in Kansas City. So, if you adopt this format, you:

  1. Have a good chance of less total plays, which protects the players
  2. Have a game that still relies on offense, defense, and a sound field goal kicker, so special teams isn’t eliminated, other than for player safety.
  3. Get both teams at least one offensive possession.
  4. Forever eliminate a tie game.

Sign me up.


Should the NFL adopt a modified version of the college overtime rule?

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