NFL Overtime

Garrett Hartley of the NO Saints kicking winning FG in 2010 NFC Championship

I don’t understand why the NFL can’t get their act together when it comes to Overtime rules during the regular season. I mean, the way the have it now just doesn’t pass the VP of Common Sense or “grandmother” rule (i.e. If you explained this to your grandmother, would she get it?).

Today, the NFL leaders voted to adopt the current Playoff OT rules for all regular season games which are:

An overtime in the regular season now will end on a team’s first possession only if it scores a touchdown or the defense forces a safety. If the team kicks a field goal on its first possession, the opposing team also will get a possession. If it also kicks a field goal, the extra period continues.

As it stands, the Playoff OT rules are just insanely silly – its kinda sorta sudden death – if you score a TD you win right then and there, but it is not sudden death if you score a field goal. These rule changes were made 2 years ago after the New Orleans Saints did what several other teams have done and won the coin toss, marched down the field, and kicked a field goal. Only difference was that their drive won them the NFC Championship instead of giving a random 5-6 team a .500 record.

To me, the way the NBA handles Overtime is the way to go, and in many ways the NFL is a similar ebb-and-flow type of sport with multiple ways to score points. The way the NBA does it is it has a 5 minute extra period – whoever has more points at the end wins. If it is still tied, they play another 5 minutes and so on until a team wins.

I’ve never played football, so I fully admit I don’t know the subtle nuances of these elements of the game. However, from watching the sport for years, it seems to me that teams would still demonstrate a sense of urgency and high levels of game strategy in approaching a full 5 minute extra session compared to the “if/than” option that they just voted to go with. The amount of elapsed “real” time that a full 5 minute session would take wouldn’t be that much different than what we see in today’s format. Having a full 5 minute extra period would give much more of an even balance of responsibilitiy to the offenses and defenses of both teams. And probably most importantly, it won’t force fans to go to the rule book when an overtime game happens to understand the nuances of the “your team didn’t win because the other team scored a TD in ‘Sudden Death Overtime’ after you scored first” scenario. At least by playing out a short, 5 minute extra period, the scenario is crystal clear. Keep on playing until whoever has the most points when the clock hits 0:00 wins.

Things are complex enough today. Do we really need this complexity in the already complex game of football?

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