Last night, we came within the bounce off a goal post–and a decision by Gary Kubiak to try a long field goal–of the third tie of the season. Even though some coaches and players may not be aware that ties are a possibility, they should have increased awareness, since the number of ties is on the rise.
This, of course, is attributable to changes in the overtime format that now give the kicking team a chance to respond, unless the receiving team scored a touchdown on the first possession. Since the start of the 2012 season, we have had 5 ties in 80 overtime opportunities (6.3% of all OT games ending in ties) compared to 2 out of 160 over the previous decade (1.3%). The chances of an overtime game ending in a tie has increased by almost five-fold with the rule changes, and games go longer.
After the Colts lost to the Chargers in overtime in January of 2009, when San Diego won the toss and won the game on a field goal, Peter King called the overtime rule the “dumbest, stupidest, and most indefensible rule” the NFL has. At the time, I disagreed, and expressed my opinion that the overtime rule was fine, for the purposes it served.
Fairness? Both teams get a chance at the coin flip, and over the course of four quarters, the coaches have opportunities to make decisions to avoid overtime. If they opt to leave things to chance, I’m not for letting them off that decision.
We should have other goals when deciding games. Avoiding overtime and wonky formats should be one of them. Deciding games, without unnecessarily extending fatigued players, would be another. The rule change that was adopted does nothing to avoid overtime, and encourages longer overtimes as what happened last night occurs–an exchange of field goals that leaves us where we would have been anyway.
So far in 2016, overtimes have averaged 9 minutes and 33 seconds of game time before resolution; in 2011, the last year before the rule change, the average overtime lasted 6 minutes.
Back in 2009, I put forth my proposal and would like to push it again today. The concept is that we pre-set who kicks off to start any overtime that occurs, based on how the end of regulation plays out, so coaches can use those to make decisions. Rather than wait for a coin flip, and perhaps two field goal possessions, coaches know the deal.
My concept is that the team with the last clear chance to avoid overtime kicks off. Here were the rules I put forth then:
1. Eliminate the coin flip at the start of overtime. The team with the “last clear chance” to avoid overtime must kick off to start the overtime period.
2. If either team has scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to score in regulation was the team with the “last clear chance”, unless that team scored the maximum number of points possible on that possession of 8 points (resulting from a touchdown and 2-point conversion). In the event the last team to score did score 8 points on the final scoring drive, then the other team kicks off to start overtime.
3. If neither team scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to punt the football was the team with the “last clear chance”, and must kick off to start overtime.
So far this year, a team scored in the final five minutes of each of the ten games that went to overtime. The Chiefs were the only one to force overtime by scoring 8 points. There were three games where a team scored a touchdown inside the two-minute warning, and opted for the extra point to tie. In each of those cases, under my rule, it would have made sense to try to win the game in regulation, knowing you would be kicking off in sudden death if you did not.
In the other cases, a field goal tied the game. The teams in those games would have also known the deal, and played it differently, as often the teams played it safe and played for overtime inside the two-minute warning. The team that knew they would kick off might be more aggressive.
I’m not tied to the specific rules–for example, if we wanted to make a rule that the team that either last missed a field goal or scored kicked off, that would be a fine alteration too.
But this current format was adopted under some vague concept of fairness because a star quarterback didn’t get his chance, after touching the ball all game. A coin flip is fair, but even better is getting games resolved quicker. I don’t need to see lots of field goal attempts in overtime.