NFL Idiocy: The Overtime Coin Toss

Janean MartiSenior Analyst IJanuary 11, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass under pressure from Calais Campbell #93 of the Arizona Cardinals during overtime of the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Packers  51-45 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Call it justice riding in on the wings of fate or just a bad football play by the Green Bay Packers, but the Arizona Cardinals snatched victory from the NFL-imposed jaws of defeat, otherwise known as the overtime coin toss.

Here are the facts: overtime, wild card playoff game, great offense, great passing, almost constant scoring.  Defense for both teams ugly.  Tied at 48 after Cardinal kicker Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal to win the game,  Packers get the ball back with four seconds left in regulation. Packers kneel down to end regulation and force overtime. They win coin flip to get the ball on offense to start overtime but Arizona strips ball from Packers' QB and scores defensive TD to win.

The problem is after 60 minutes of clawing, scrambling, fighting, running, sweating, and pure effort, the NFL gave an advantage to one team by starting overtime with a coin flip.

The game proves the NFL overtime rules must be changed and the solution is simple. The team which has the ball on offense as time expires in regulation will start overtime on defense.

That's it. That's the rule. If you have the ball as time expires in regulation, the other team will get the ball to start overtime. 

No more betting the futures of NFL players and coaches on a coin flip to start overtime. The NFL purportedly opposes gambling in the form of a flip of a card or a turn of a dice or a tweak of a kicker's knee. So why does the NFL flip a coin to determine who will get the ball first in a 15-minute sudden death overtime?

That sudden death overtime could determine the fate of coaches, players, and franchises (not to mention the mental health of fans) but the NFL seems to think those fates should ride on the flip of a coin.

If the Packers had won Sunday's wild card game against the Cardinals based on winning the coin flip, it would have been a travesty.

As a lifelong Packer fan, I would have been thrilled with the win.  And saddened at the process to get the win. 

The win would have been tainted because both teams proved to have great quarterbacks and receivers during regulation and less than sterling defenses. Giving one team a chance to win via sudden death because they won a coin flip to start overtime was ludicrous. 

NFL teams pay hundreds of millions in salary to coaches, staff, and players. Taxpayers pony up millions for new stadiums and attendant infrastructure. Advertisers and broadcasters fork over billions to broadcast NFL games. So why are all these bucks balanced on a coin flip?

The slogging, clogging, clawing Packer-Cardinal game gave us what we want: entertainment.

But even die-hard Packer fans know if the Packers had won the game just because they called the coin toss right, it would have been a travesty. After 60 minutes of wild play, neither team deserved an advantage to win in overtime based purely on the flip of a coin.

The NFL argues limiting overtime to sudden death is to limit the time of play and protect players from injury in case of protracted overtime games.

If the NFL really wants to limit overtime minutes, make it more attractive to the team holding the ball in the last minutes or seconds of regulation to score. That means changing the rule to mandate the team ending regulation play on defense will get the ball on offense to start the overtime period.

Some will argue the overtime coin flip worked because, even though the Packers got the ball to begin overtime, the Arizona defense forced a turnover to win the game.

But under my proposed rule, the Packers wouldn't have gotten the ball to begin overtime because they were the team on offense when regulation ended.

While we're at it, let's get rid of the coin toss to start the game. Just give the visiting team the ball to start the game.

Anyone who saw the Green Bay Packers battle the Arizona Cardinals understood one thing: both quarterbacks and their offensive brethren deserved to win the game.

Would it have been better for the game and the sport if the Packers had gone down and kicked a field goal to win the game just because they won the coin toss?

If a team has the ball in a tied game with 120 seconds to play, it could make for some interesting play if they know if they don't score and the game goes into overtime, the other team gets the ball.

Get rid of the coin tosses!