Friday, February 20, 2009

Fixing NFL Overtime is Simple

The NFL Rules Committee is meeting this week, and one of the items on the agenda is overtime. Specifically, should it be changed and if so, how?

The Colts-Chargers playoff game brought this issue back onto the front burner, when Peyton Manning's Colts lost the coin toss, and the MVP stood there on the bench and watched the Bolts go down the field, score a TD, and send Indy home. The standard cry of "how can a playoff game be decided by a coin flip?" echoed throughout the land. "Something needs to be done!" cried disgruntled Colt fans.

Tony Dungy, for his part, was not one of the grumblers. He simply stated that you still have to play football after the coin flip, and if his teams' inability to get one defensive stop was the reason they lost. Plain and simple.

"Sudden death is a good procedure. It’s fun and everyone knows the rules," said Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons president and co-chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee. Apparently he forgot about Donovan McNabb, who had zero clue how the whole "we're tied after 60 minutes thing" actually worked. How many other players lacked this knowledge is unknown, but we're betting there are many others.

"I would like to see the stats change because I don’t like the fact that that the team winning the coin flip now wins 60 percent of the time, and the team winning the coin flip, 40-plus percent of the time, wins it on the first possession." McKay continued.

Based on that stat, the clamor for change is being heard. Suggested options include the following:

A college style system where by each team alternates possession from the opposing 25 yard line. (This is gimmicky and reminds us of an NHL shootout. Also, it's stupid.)

Minor tweaks to the existing sudden death system, such as moving back the kickoff line to force longer drives for the team receiving the kick. (Nice try, but not enough)

Not allowing any punts in the extra session. (Stupid, since it removes an element from the game - why not eliminate blitzing while you're at it?)

An eight minute overtime, which presumably would allow each team a chance to get at least one possession. Ties remian ties during the regular season. (Hmmm.....)

This last one has some merit. However, we see an even simpler solution which requires no major overhaul of the existing system, nor any crazy stunts. Get ready, here it comes...

Each team gets to touch the ball in an offensive manner at least once. That's it.

In our example, let's say the Colts and the Chargers are playing, but in the regular season. San Diego wins the toss, and scores a TD after a 7 minute drive. They would then kick to Indy, who would have to score a TD to stay alive. Fail and the game ends. Succeed, and we're now in Sudden Death mode, next score wins. If the 15 minute period expires and we're still tied, it remains a tie. Stratgey would be a huge factor when deciding to kick a field goal or not, knowing that a miss leaves a short field for your opponent. Teams with strong defenses might opt to kick when winning the OT coin flip in the hopes of pinning down the opponent and getting good field position for its offense. No mater what, it brings some strategy back into the game here, would be entertaining as hell, and eliminates the coin flip stat McKay uses above once and for all.

It could be hashed out as to what constitutes a "touch", but for the sake of argument let's say that in the example above, if Indy fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, the game would end. Other items like this could be hashed out by the comp committee, since they need something to do this week anyway.

For post-season games, the same rules apply, only we go beyond the 5th quarter until the game is decided.

Basically, the rule isn't overhauled, overtime doesn't become gimmicky, and the games don't get any longer. We can't see how the NFL goes wrong here.

Your move, Mr. Goodell.

No comments: