The NFL is on the verge of doing something really dumb for a dubious reason that will have a clear negative impact on the game.
Overtime in the NFL has been tinkered with over the past decade and the end result isn’t perfect. Our own Jason Lisk has proposed a few sensible fixes. The league, it appears, is hellbent on making a flawed system even worse.
Implementing a 10-minute overtime may shorten games, but it will likely bring about more ties. And there are precious few fans who are clamoring for more sister-kissing.
There were two ties in the NFL in 2016: Seattle-Arizona in Week 7 and Washington-Cincinnati in Week 8. Four additional games that did not end in ties would have been impacted by the proposed rule change.
In Week 8, the Oakland Raiders got a Derek Carr touchdown pass with 1:45 remaining on overtime to sink the Buccaneers, 30-24. As the clock ticked toward 5:00, the Raiders faced a 4th-and-7 from the Tampa Bay 43 and opted to punt before getting it back for the decisive drive.
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Denver Broncos, 30-27, in Week 12 thanks to a Cairo Santos field goal with two seconds remaining in overtime. The Chiefs received the ball with 8:51 left in the extra period after the Broncos had driven for a field goal. Alex Smith’s drive eventually stalled out at the Denver 19 and Santos kicked a game-tying field goal with 4:19 on the clock.
Here we have an instance of the team that kicked off in overtime still possession the ball after 10 minutes of play in overtime, meaning it’s worth asking how the new rule will be implemented. Will teams taking possession after an overtime field goal be allowed to compete their drive or will they be constrained by the game clock?
Consider what happened in Week 17 between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns took the opening kick in overtime and burned nearly 8 minutes of clock before kicking a field goal. The Steelers took possession with 7:17 remaining. At the new proposed cutoff time, they were around midfield. Eventually, Landry Jones threw a 26-yard touchdown pass for the win. But the drive, as with the other two mentioned above, would have been drastically different with the looming urgency of the final whistle.
In the final instance, Anthony Franks booted a game-winner with 47 seconds remaining as Miami defeated Buffalo, 34-31, in Week 16. The Bills had possession as the clock approached 5:00 but were nowhere near field goal range.
Obviously, the teams would have approached strategy differently. But that might not be a good thing for the NFL.
It’s not unreasonable to think all four of these games could have ended in ties, bringing the league wide total to six, had the new rules been in play. Santos’ first OT field goal knotted things up for Kansas City against Denver. The Steelers may have opted to go for the tie instead of pushing toward the end zone. Zero out of the four games were more likely to find a winner with five minutes remaining on overtime. All four were decided in the final five minutes.
More concerning is the possibility more teams will play for the tie as opposed to swallowing it as a means of last resort. No one wants that.
In short, this new plan seems demonstrably bad, the worst of a platter of options. There’s a high probability it will leave a bad taste in fans’ mouths come next year.