Sometime in March 2010, the NFL owners (by a 28-4 vote) approved a new overtime rule that would not take effect until the 2011 playoffs.
Like me, you may have missed this breaking news from 10 months ago. Perhaps you were immersed in March Madness, spring training or some healthy combination of the two, and maybe you simply forgot about it.
With that in mind, I present this News Flash: The 2011 NFL playoffs are just four days away and new rules will be in effect.
Here is the Cliff Notes version of the new rule: In overtime, a team can no longer win the coin toss, drive into field goal range and kick the game-winner without its opponent having the opportunity to gain possession.
If they score a touchdown on that first possession of overtime, they win; if they kick a field goal, they have to kick off to the other team.
If they score a field goal (that used to end the game) and their opponent does not score in return, they win; if their opponent scores a touchdown, they lose; if their opponent scores a field goal, they play on and true sudden death ensues.
Got all that?
In about three paragraphs, I'll offer my opinion on the new rule, itself. As for now, I think it's unfair to change a rule for the postseason. If you're going to test drive something, do that in the preseason, not the postseason.
At the very least, implement it at the start of the regular season.
Under this strange timing of implementation, a team could have gotten into the playoffs by winning an overtime game with a first-possession field goal. It didn't happen this year, but stranger things have happened this year.
But why run the risk and why play under a new set of rules for the postseason? It makes no sense. My softball league sometimes changes the rules for our playoff season, and that aggravates me. And we have nothing but pride at stake.
But how about the rule, itself?
I'm debating that and will also solicit the opinions of the best and the brightest below. You guys are invited to participate as well—sorry for the shot.
The NFL was obviously looking to reduce the number of games decided on first-possession (after the coin flip) field goals. Prior to the 2010 regular season, 59.8 percent of teams winning the coin flip in overtime won the game; 34.4 percent won on those controversial first-possession field goals.
You may recall that the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in last season's NFC Championship on one of those first-possession field goals (let's call it an FPFG). The previous two FPFG victories were achieved in the AFC Divisional rounds. The Titans defeated the Steelers 34-31 in 2002 and the Patriots advanced past the Raiders 16-13 in 2001.
(I seem to recall something about a tuck in the latter game, but let's keep this on point.)
While I enjoy the excitement of sudden death, like most fans, I never liked a team winning on one of those FPFGs. Something just felt cheap about it, unless the victory was earned by the team that I was fervently rooting for.
Given this, forcing the coin-toss winners to drive the length of the field (or have their return man do it) for a touchdown is a step in the right direction.
Here's my question: If you're concerned about both teams having a possession—thus reducing the premium on being able to call heads or tails successfully—why not let the opponent have one possession even after a touchdown has been scored? (You can call this an FPTD; it has nothing to do with flowers.)
Let's go back to that Saints-Vikings game. Perhaps, Drew Brees would have led the Saints to a touchdown if that rule were in effect last year. And wouldn't the excitement have been heightened even more if Brett Favre and the Vikings had one chance to either match that touchdown or go home?
You may recall that Favre and the Vikings played at an extremely high level last year; whatever happened to that guy?
I would actually prefer this wrinkle to the overtime rules employed by the NCAA. I never liked the NCAA rule (in a nutshell, opposing offenses trade possessions from a designated yard-line, until the tie is broken) for two reasons:
- It takes special teams out of the equation
- Because of that, teams play on a much shorter field in overtime; it just feels like a totally different game. It's a little better than penalty kicks in soccer, but not much.
In my own final analysis, I would prefer that the NFL take away sudden death in overtime and just play an extra period without that feature. I agree that sudden death sounds more alluring, but is it better?
The NFL has already decided that sudden death by an FPFG isn't deadly enough, so if you’re compromising that, why not go back to the actual rules of the game?
Why not play an extra quarter without sudden death? Playing an extra 15 minutes puts all the elements (in microcosm) of a regular season game into play: offense, defense, special teams, time management, etc.
If it's tied after that extra quarter, play another. Perhaps, players may be running on fumes by then, but would it really be so bad. Perhaps, we can modify what happens at that point, but let's play a full quarter of OT.
If nothing else, that would lessen the impact of the coin flip.
Let's end this rant with an urgent memo to the NFL: When you decide to change a rule, don't wait till the postseason to implement it!
If reports are correct, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and owner Mike Brown have agreed to a contract extension. Lewis was a great defensive coordinator and seems like a nice guy, but are you kidding me?
Maybe this is a marriage made in mediocrity.
For what it's worth, I have read several articles on BR and elsewhere ranking the postseason quarterbacks from 1-12.
My own confidence meter for the 12 would look something like this: After No. 1, I could make a case for almost any of the next six for the No. 2 spot, but as of now, I'd rank them:
- Brady (Three rings and runaway regular season MVP)
- Brees (Happened to win it all last year)
- Roethlisberger (Just wins and has two rings)
- Rodgers (Performed well in his only playoff start last year and is playing great)
- Manning (9-9 career playoff record)
- Vick (Sensational year and has been pretty good in his previous playoffs)
- Ryan (Game manager-plus, and has some experience)
- Flacco (See notes for Ryan)
- Cutler (Need to see it to believe it)
- Sanchez (Performed well in last year’s playoffs)
- Cassel (I need to see more of him under pressure)
- Whitehurst or Hasselbeck (Does this require an explanation?)
Given my fine predictions all year, you can now prepare yourselves for a Chiefs-Seahawks Super Bowl.
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: matt@tipofthegoldberg. com