New NFL Overtime Rule: Far From Perfect, but Step in the Right Direction

Peter LomuscioCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Brett Favre #4 (C) and Tavaris Jackson #7 of the Minnesota Vikings look on dejected from the bench late in the game against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL has passed a new rule altering the overtime format exclusively for the playoffs. The proposal passed through the owners rather comfortably with a 28-4 vote.

This new format will assure the team that kicks off to start overtime a possession if they hold their opponent to a field goal on the initial possession. If the receiving team scores a touchdown the game is over.

There is no denying that this is clearly an improvement to the overtime rule that was in place, but at the same time the rule is far from perfect.

Traditionalists usually are opposed to big time changes in the sport, but even they supported a fairer overtime scenario like the new rule put in place. Since 1994 about 60 percent of teams that won the coin toss won the overtime game. This was a statistic that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

Unfortunately the NFL didn’t have the courage to go all out to fix this issue in one shot. The whole purpose of the change was to assure both teams a chance to get their offense on the field to match or beat their opponent.

This altering has only prevented the good kick return, one solid pass play, and then a deep field goal to win it. But it doesn’t prevent the kicking team from still not getting its fair shot after losing the coin toss.

Both teams deserve an equal opportunity to perform in all aspects of the game in overtime. There is no reason for one team to have an advantage just because they won a coin flip. Both teams' offenses, defenses, and special teams should be forced to perform.

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Many people are pushing for a NCAA Football overtime format, which is extremely exciting and gives each team an equal shot to win it, but this system just doesn’t suit the NFL. It has an amateur feel to it and you want to see a team earn their way down the field rather than reward them with starting basically in their opponent’s redzone.

So the solution still is waiting to be discovered or created out there and no matter what system is created in the near future it is sure to have an awkward feel to it. It will only be natural, as we have all grown accustomed to the overtime rules that have been in place for as long as most remember.

How about this?

Team A kicks ball off in overtime.

Team B receives and proceeds to attempt to march down the field and score.

No matter the result of the drive, Team B will have to kick off to Team A at the completion of the drive.

If they score a touchdown Team A will be able to match, if they score a field goal Team A will be able to match or top to complete the game. If Team B turns the ball over the possession is over and they will kick off to Team B unless the turnover is returned for a score then the game would be over.

This process will be repeated until a winner is decided.

In addition to prevent any unfair advantage coming from the coin flip no team will be allowed to go for it on fourth down inside their own 40 yard line.

This system may seem slightly chaotic at first glance, but as stated earlier basically all new creations will. It may seem frenzied to the eye, but when evaluating the system it is a fair way to decide the outcome of these tight games that will be critical to both parties involved.

Another concern is the fact that the rule only applies to the playoffs. It would be nice to see some consistency in the rules.

Teams surely wont like the idea of playing one way in the regular season and then alter such a crucial rule when the playoffs come around. Some positive news is there have already been discussions about expanding the rule to the regular season also at the next meetings in May.

So despite the new overtime rule still being flawed, the NFL has definitely made the correct move by taking a step in the right direction towards a fair system to decide an overtime winner. They have avoided further disastrously unfair results in future playoff games.

It’s just a shame that it came too late for some.


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