As I sit here writing this entry, I cannot but help about Colin Cowherd criticizing anyone who questions the NFL overtime rules and would like to make suggestions about alternatives that could be considered. Apparently, he thinks anyone who questions the NFL overtime rules is a dweeb and needs to get a better job, or a life, so that they do not have time to waste on things like this. As we all know, the opening game of the NFL season ended last night with a Steeler field goal to end the game on the first possession of overtime. So, just as in many other cases over the years, the winner of the coin toss determined the outcome of the game in reality.
It seems that the people who support the current overtime rules in the NFL make a number of arguments against why the rules should not be changed. I think one has been that it has always been that way and it should remain the same. This would be a ridiculous argument for one big reason. Sometimes change can be good and it may even improve games. THey also bring up needing to keep the overtime play as short as possible to avoid player fatigue and injury. If keeping the overtime short is the primary concern then just do a series of tie breakers based on stats. For example, the team with the most offensive yards wins the game. Obviously I do not seriously support this, but wanted to make a point. I have also heard that if teams just do their job and play defense, then they would get the ball back and the overtime would then be fair. Well, in that case, if you want to avoid fatigue and injury, just do your job and win the game in regulation. Another argument that Cowherd made was that the coin flip to start overtime does not determine the outcome of a game any more than the opening kick coin toss. This is obviously a faulty argument in that the team that plays defense first could give up an opening drive score, and then they get the ball back with a chance to win the game. Yes, the over time coin flip does determine outcome more.
One alternative that people have discussed on the radio and in blogs, etc. would be moving to the system that college football utilizes for overtime. My understanding, I do not watch a lot of college ball, is that each team alternates getting the ball at the opponent's 25 yard line. If they score, then the other team gets a chance with the ball. Further, if the first team with possession in overtime scores a field goal and the opponent then scores a touchdown, the game is over at that point. One criticsm of this is that you have games that go into six overtimes. Well, that is not the same as six quarters as that only means that each team has had 6 possessions in overtime. I really do not see this as a valid reason against this system. However, what I do see as a legitimate argument against this overtime sustem is the fact that it utterly eliminates some major aspects of the game. First, it completely eliminates special teams play. There are no kickoffs, no punts, and it eliminates true defensive play as well. Under this syatem of rules theere are just too many aspects of the game that are reduced or eliminated and it really should not be utilized in the NFL.
Another idea I have heard recently was put forward by Mike Golic on Mike and Mike In the Morning today. Under this system, the first team to six points in overtime would win the game. I would take this to mean that if the first team to have possession scored a touchdown, the game would then be over much like it is now with first team to score wins. However, if the first team to score in overtime scores a field goal, then they have to score another field goal to win. This would mean that both teams would have at least one possession in overtime. The drawback I see here is that this could go on for a fairly long period of time if you have two very good defensive teams playin, as was the case in the Titans Steelers game last night. One thing that makes this better than the college overtime rules is the fact that all aspects of the game would still be important in the overtime period here. There would still be some negatives though. With this, there certainly could be increased likelihoods of injury. This would be better than the current system overall, but still there would have to be a better option.
The alternative put forward by Mike Greenburg was an overtime with a reduced time, like a 10 minute overtime period. This is similar to the system used in the NHL which also has a shortened overtime period during the regular season. However, unlike the NHL, it would not be first team to score wins. This overtime system would entail playing the entire, let's say 10 minutes, overtime period and the score at the end of that period stands as the final. This would mean that if both teams were still tied after the overtime period, the game would just end in a tie. This is what we have now as far as games ending in a tie after one overtime period. Donovan McNabb learned that last season I believe. In my view this would be a better system than the ones outlined above in that each team would get a possession, all aspects of the game would remain intact, and there should be less chance of injury and fatigue with the reduced overtime period.
Here is the system that I would propose. It is a hybrid of the NFL and the college football overtime systems. At the beginning of overtime, there would be a kickoff. Let's say for example that the Patriots receive the overtime kickoff from the Jets. If the Patriots go down the field and score a touchdown, then the ball is kicked off to the Jets. When the Jets get the ball, they have to score a touchdown, or the game is over. This insures that both teams get at least one possession. However, let's say that the Patriots score a field goal, then like in college the Jets can score a field goal to extend to another overtime possession, or win the game with a touchdown. What if the Patriots are unable to move the ball on offense? Then, like in regulatio, they can punt. If the Jets score anything after that then the Jets win. If the Jets cannot score, they could then punt as well. This would then cause all aspects of the game to remain important and would mean that field position strategy would remain important as well. This would, in my mind combine the best aspects of the above overtime systems and create an overtime far superior to the current one as well.
Until then, let's have some great football games this weekend!