Readers weigh in on changing NFL overtime rules
Last week I wrote a column on an overtime rule that’s expected to be proposed later this month at league meetings in Orlando, Fla. The new proposal says the team that gets the ball to start overtime can win on the opening possession only with a touchdown. If that team kicks a field goal, the other team gets a possession with a chance to either win with a touchdown or tie with a field goal. If the game is tied after that, it would be sudden death from that point on. If neither team scores when it first gets the ball, the game would continue on a sudden-death basis.
A lot of readers weighed in with their own overtime suggestions, some of them pretty creative. Here's a look at some of those ideas:
Robert Gorges: One plan that I have not heard is an overtime with a time limit of, say, 12 minutes or even 15 minutes. I mean c'mon these teams have -- what? -- 60 guys on a team. It's a team game, right? This will make you play more players, and the best team with the best players will win (hopefully) this would be great for football and the fans.
Ken Driscoll: Just add an extra period like basketball. Add another quarter, the team ahead at the end of the quarter wins. Both teams will get to use their offense, defense, and special teams. If the teams are still tied, you keep adding quarters until one team is ahead when time runs out. Teams will keep trying to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals as soon as they are in range.
If the simple fix is too radical there is another way to keep sudden death and make it more fair. No field goals in overtime. Think of the excitement of a goal line stand to decide a championship game, that an offense or defense has to get the football across the goal line to win a game.
Jim Rice: Rather than a kickoff to start the sudden death overtime period, there should be an “auction” to see who starts with the ball, and where. A coin is tossed and the winner has the right to take the ball at their own 1-yard line. If they refuse, the other team has the option to take the ball at their 2-yard line. If they refuse, the first team can take the ball at their three yard line. This continues until one team chooses to take the ball.
With this method, instead of the luck of a coin toss, the outcome would be determined by strategy and football skills. That’s all you can ask.
Mark Graham: I think a more interesting proposition for overtime would be to allow each coach at the end of regulation to submit a "blind bid" as to where on the field they would like their offense to start. The team whose bid is closer to their own end zone gets the ball first. Then sudden death kicks in. This would face a struggle getting adopted since it opens coaches to scrutiny, but it is much less random.
David Meister: There is one somewhat elegant solution to OT, whether regular- or post-season. At the end of 60 minutes, if the game is tied, it is treated as the end of the 4th quarter, with the teams switching directions, but continuing from that same field position. From that point on, the first team to score wins. Regular season games would be limited to another 15 minutes, while post-season would continue until someone scored.
If the score of a post-season game is tied with 30 seconds left, a team is not penalized if it kicks a FG. Why should it be penalized a minute later?
Robin Paulsen: Whatever happens, it is only fair if both teams get possession of the ball. Bottom line, period. However they tweak it from there warrants discussion. If not, it would be like MLB saying, "If the visiting team scores in the top of the 10th inning, the home team doesn't get an at bat." Or in hockey (where they have that artificial shootout thing), "If the first player gets one past the goalie, it's over."
Barry Korn: Everything in NFL games is clock-driven: play clock, 2-minute warning and drill, booth reviews in last 2 minutes of games, "clock management" etc, etc, etc. Why not have a clock-driven overtime: pick a number: 5-minute, 7-minute, 10-minute overtime "extra periods" played until someone actually wins with time expiring. Too tiring, you say, then "simply win the game."
No great advantage by winning the coin-flip, if a team dominates an extra period, so be it ... just like keeping the ball away from an opponent the last few minutes of regulation time.
Don Loundy: I feel that the excitement of possible sudden death with the pros' overtime rule is canceled out by the facts that only one offense may have an opportunity to touch the ball, and by the escalation of the importance of the field goal. Comparing pro and college overtime games, and notwithstanding the minimal use of special team play in college overtimes, I believe the opportunity for both offenses to move the ball plus the escalating scoring requirement make the college approach more fair and more exciting.
J.J. Volpe: The NFL who has a history of despising any form of gambling, now expects teams to rely on the simplest form of gambling luck to help determine the outcome of games. This monstrous luck advantage must be eliminated! Even the pre-game coin toss to determine who receives or defends first should be eliminated!
(1) I believe that the team with the best record should have the option of receiving or defending on the opening kickoff. This would apply in the regular season as well as the post-season. Lesser teams should always be made to earn their rights and advantages through performance, not Lady Luck smiling on them. In the opening game of the season, the team with the best record from the previous season earns the option of receiving or defending.
(2) In overtime games, I would like to suggest that the team who has either gained the most yardage, or the team who has controlled the ball the longest (time of possession), should have the right of receiving or defending on kickoff. In this manner, the team who is performing the best that day, gets the advantage, not the luckiest team. However, the opponent should get the ball and it's offense be afforded the opportunity to score. Thus the game should not be called "Sudden Death" but rather "Sudden Victory," thereby reinforcing the positive rather than the negative
This overtime rule should also be instituted in regular season overtime games as well.Eric J. Stenberg: Each team makes a bid as to which yard line they want to start with the ball on. These bids are done secretly so neither team knows what the other team bids. The team that bids nearest to their own goal line wins the bid and starts with the ball on that yard line.
For example: Team A bids their own 22 yard line. Team B bids their own 17 yard line. Team B gets the ball on their own 17 and a regular sudden death overtime ensues.One possible minor issue: Both teams bid the same yard line. This can be easily remedied by (1) having both teams rebid, or (2) implementing a rule in which the home team bids odd numbered yard lines and the away team bids even numbered yard lines.
Dave Simmons: Anything would be an improvement over the current situation, but the best would be a modified college rule. You say it takes the special teams out of the picture, so just put them back in. Have each team kick the ball away, but give them each at least one possession.
Owen Chambers: Here is an idea about NFL overtime. Continue play. Play continues where they left off, same place on field, same down. Give each team 2 timeouts and a challenge. First team to scores, wins.
Sheldon Dan: My opinion is to allow both teams possession of the ball in overtime, playoffs or not. If the defense forces a turnover, that still satisfies the condition. After both teams have had the ball, if the game is still tied, the game goes to sudden death.
I would like this tried in college as well. The "run-up-the-score" feature does not seem like a good idea.Milt Oberman: Why does everything have to be so complicated? How about this for simplicity? Start with a coin toss. The winner gets to choose to kick or receive. If the team who gets the ball first scores, the other team receives a kick-off and gets its chance to score. If the first team doesn't score (either by choosing to punt or giving up the ball on downs), the second team gets the ball and can win with a touchdown or field goal. If either team is ahead after each team has had one possession (or chance at possession in the case of an successful opening on-side kick, or a subsequent muffed punt), the game is over. If the score is still tied, they continue to play sudden death.
Joe Whitaker: I would like to see each team get their hands on the ball under any circumstances. Coin toss winner elects whether to kick or receive. (Which would you do?) Receiving team then scores 3 or 7 -- or zero. Other team takes over and can execute a game plan accordingly, depending on whether it needs a touchdown to win or merely a field goal. At the end of one "round," if score still tied, we do it again, till one team wins.
Short of that, I'd stick with the current system.Kingsley Rawad: What they should really do instead of the current coin-flip & bogus touchdown only wins, is they should run one play at the goal line just like the 2 point conversion to decide who gets the ball. And they could also keep the OT coin toss (it's fun) to decide who's defending or trying to score on the conversion. I've had the idea for years and it's great.
Joe Curran: The NFL needs to adopt the same overtime procedure as the NBA. Five minute overtime period, whoever scores the most points wins. In case of a tie. Double, triple or however many overtimes are necessary in order to find a winner. This rule should go into effect when LA gets a franchise!
-- Sam Farmer
Photo: Saints kicker Garrett Hartley (5) kicks the game-winning field goal in overtime to give the Saints a 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press