The NFL Should Take a Play Out of the UFL Playbook

Court ZierkCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 11:  Matt Prater #5 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after kicking the game winning field goal in overtime against the New England Patriots during an NFL game at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

As I watched last weekend's Broncos-Patriots game go into overtime, I found myself holding my breath as the captains from the two teams congregated at mid field for the coin toss.  

Knowing that if the flip didn't go our way, our chances for victory would decrease exponentially, I rooted for that coin toss like it was a game deciding 60-yard field goal.

Luckily, the Broncos won the toss and elected to receive the kickoff.  Kyle Orton then orchestrated a flawless drive, methodically marching his Broncos (yes, I said HIS Broncos) down the field 58 yards, where Matt Prater sealed the game with a 41 yard field goal.

The Broncos handed Tom Brady his first career overtime loss without even giving him the chance to step on the field.

Thinking back on it now, I can't help but wonder how the NFL has ignored the preposterous overtime rules for so long.  

Sure, as a Broncos fan I was thrilled with the outcome, and seeing Tom Brady pace back and forth on the sidelines like a nervous school girl while Orton did his best John Elway impression was priceless.

However, as I think about it more objectively, the game certainly would have been much more fair and appealing had both teams been given offensive series.

Historically, 28 percent of teams who win the coin toss score on their opening drive, not allowing the opposing offense to take the field in overtime. Something about this seems inherently unfair.  Should three out 10 teams really never get the chance to touch the ball on offense?

I have heard many defenders of the current NFL format claim that each team does in fact have an equal chance to win because the defense should be able to stop the opposing team from scoring.

This would be a good position if the sudden death rules mandated a touchdown being scored rather than simply a field goal.

Assuming the receiving team gets a decent kick return, the offense potentially has to go as little as 35-40 yards to be in field goal range.  Bad offenses do this on good defenses regularly.

This does not make you the better team. It just proves your offense can move the ball less than halfway down the field and that your kicker can make a really long field goal.

The newly independently formed UFL (United Football League), in my opinion has gotten the overtime rule exactly right.

In the UFL, sudden death rules still apply, but only after each team has been given one possession.

This is a slight variation from the college rules, where each team is given a possession starting at the opponents 25-yard line with the first team to have the lead after a pair of possession being declared the winner.

The NCAA overtime is a little too "everyone gets a ribbon" for my taste.

The college format completely eliminates the possibility of any mistakes in the kicking game or spectacular special team plays from having any bearing on the outcome.  It also allows teams to begin their possession entirely too close to the opposing team's end zone, thereby narrowing the defenses impact on the game

I think that each team having to field a kick-off, and having one opportunity to score before sudden death rules are initiated is the perfect solution.

Under this scenario, both offenses have equal opportunity to score and both defenses have equal opportunity to prevent a score.  If neither team, or if both teams score on the first possession, great, back to the overtime rules as we know them today.

The NFL needs to give some serious thought to changing their overtime rules and adopting a solution very similar, if not identical to the UFL.

There is no reason to place that much emphasis on the arbitrary result of a coin toss.