I'm sure by now we've all heard about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb's overtime brain fart. For those of us who don't remember, please allow me to remind you.
NFL Rule: If an NFL game is tied after four quarters, the teams play an additional quarter lasting up to 15 minutes. In an NFL overtime game, the first team that scores, wins. This is referred to as sudden death. In a regular-season NFL game, if neither team scores in overtime, the game is a tie.
In an NFL playoff game, additional overtime periods are played, as needed, to determine a winner.
This clearly means that regular-season games can end in a tie after one quarter of overtime is played, but the Super Bowl and postseason games cannot. I believe that McNabb should have known this. All players and coaches in the NFL should be aware of this rule. In fact, the rule was adopted in 1974, and 17 games have since ended tied.
McNabb said, "I never even knew that was in the rulebook. It's part of the rules, and we have to go with it. I was looking forward to the next opportunity to get out there and try to win the game. I hate to see what happens in the Super Bowl, and I hate to see what happens in the playoffs, to settle with a tie."
Is he insane? What would he think would happen if a playoff game ended in a tie? How would anyone advance to the next round? Come on Donovan, let's not get stupid.
McNabb went on to plead his case. "I've never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book. It's part of the rules, and we have to go with it. Should I have known that rule? Yes. But there are a lot of rules in that rulebook that a lot of us don't know, and we ask questions."
In McNabb's defense, it seems the overtime knowledge is not known by others throughout the league. In fact, other players like Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger have rushed to his aid, showing their own ignorance of the rule.
A little closer to home, Carolina Panthers Head Coach John Fox was asked in an interview how much time he spends making sure his players know the rules.
Fox commented, “We meet about them. We talk about them. We meet in the offseason. Everybody has mandated meetings with the officials. We have them at training camp. They sit in meetings and go over tape. A lot of it is just everyday stuff.
"As far as the tiebreakers for the playoff system and all those kinds of things, I don't really look at those as rules; those are just procedures. But as far as playing the game and situations of games, we practice those on a daily basis.”
Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said he knew regular-season games could end in a tie. “I promise you, there are some people that probably didn’t know that overtime ended in a tie in the regular season."
Jake was also asked if he was surprised that McNabb didn’t know the rules and responded, “Yes and no...a little bit. But I promise you, he didn’t play thinking let’s wait until the second overtime. Sure he’s getting a lot of flak over it. A lot of guys probably don’t know and are too proud to say they didn’t know.”
I guess that ignorance is bliss for those who don't know the rules. Perhaps one day, they'll be able to experience the same realization that McNabb did.
Bottom line is that there is no excuse to not know the rules. If a player doesn't know the rules, then the responsibility lays fully on the coaching staff, period!