How Overtime Should Actually Work in the NFL


As we all know, the NFL owners approved a rules change this week, altering the way overtime works in the postseason. In a word, it is stupid. Both teams get a possession in the overtime period, unless the first team with the ball scores a touchdown. If the first team with the ball only kicks a lame-o field goal, then the other team gets a chance. Now, if that team scores a touchdown, the game is over. Otherwise, if the score is still tied after these possessions, the teams will play in a sudden death format.

Like everything in the sports world, this rules change is overly complicated and convoluted. What’s really frustrating about all of this is the fact that the league has now openly placed such a hatred on field goals winning playoff games in overtime. I’m sure when the owners see Hot Tub Time Machine, they will be taking notes to figure out the physics of that particular time travel device. That way, they can institute this rule for last season and Brett Favre would have had a better chance of making it to the Super Bowl.

There have been plenty of times when I have not been the biggest fan of sudden death, but this change (currently just for the postseason, but it’s only a matter of time before this finds its way into the regular season) already makes me wish things would go back to the way they were. The sports world often takes itself so seriously, and it would seem the NFL was trying to emulate Congress and its health care bill by passing something that is needlessly confusing. Coaches around the league – Sean Payton comes to mind – were referencing backroom deals and “so-called traditionalists” were suddenly swayed after looking at the statistics which, if anything, proved that overtime can, and does, end in a number of different ways, each outcome contributing a healthy enough percentage to prove the system works the way it is.

But, no, there is that looming concern over a Super Bowl ending on a coin toss. As if the tension and drama of sudden death would somehow be horrible for the Super Bowl. If one team can’t stop the other, then it shouldn’t deserve to win, right? Of course not! In this society, the growing sentiment continues to be that everyone gets a chance. Therefore, if the rules must be changed, there is a much easier way of figuring all of this out. Here are my proposed changes to overtime in the NFL:

  • Both teams start out with one possession in overtime, no matter what. Naturally, a coin flip will determine which team gets the ball first. There will be a kickoff for both possessions, but both teams are guaranteed a chance to score.
  • If the score is still tied after these possessions, then another coin is flipped and the overtime becomes a sudden death period.

There. That seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? With this, no team can complain it didn’t get a fair shot in overtime. If this seems too easy, it’s probably because it is. That’s why you’d never find this proposed change in a league like the NFL. For now, we just get to remain baffled by what they consider an improvement to the old overtime rules.