Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Feb 2010

NFL May Change OT Rules For Playoffs

A league spokesman says new rules for postseason overtime games will be discussed at a competition committee meeting next month. In the new format, each team would get the ball at least once, unless the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 28 Feb 2010

113 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2010, 4:50am by sports-veronica


by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:02pm

I think they should just make it first team to 4 wins. Thats basically the same thing but it extends it past the every team gets 1 possession.

by MurphyZero :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:06pm

My recommendation is "Win by 4" just like tennis and other have win by 2 rules.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:16pm

I'm not sure it's ever happened but in overtime but if the defense comes out and scores a safety on the first possession of OT, in a win-by-4 the game continues. That seems wrong to me because then the offense have already had the ball once.

by TimK :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 8:27pm

I remember Rich Karlis kicked 7 FGs in a game for the Vikings that went to OT and they won with a safety - but don't know if that was first drive. Think it is only OT game to end with a safety though.

Given free kick returns after a safety a FG is not too hard to get following a safety, and that would be the win. But I agree that a defensive score on the first possession should win the game.

by Eddo :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:16pm

The Craig Krenzel-led Bears defeated the Titans on an overtime safety in 2004.

Box score

The Bears scoring that game consisted of an interception return touchdown by Michael Haynes (how about that, Bears fans?), a punt return touchdown by R.W. McQuarters, a Paul Edinger field goal, and the aforementioned safety.

Craig Krenzel's line: 10/28, 116 yards, 2 interceptions.

by andrew :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 8:25am

To my knowledge that game was the answer to the trivia question: What are the most points an NFL team has scored without scoring a touchdown? (or most points a team has given up without allowing a touchdown). 23.

Box Score.

Second most would be 21 when When Chris Boniol kicked 7 for a 21-6 win over Green Bay in '96 and when Shayne Graham kicked 7 in a 21-7 win over Baltimore in 2007.

It (The Karlis game, with the safety scored when Mike Merriweather blocked a punt out of the end zone) is also the greatest disparity in touchdowns that had the score go the other way, as the Rams got three touchdowns to the Vikings 0 yet lost.

by tuluse :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 9:57pm

If you force a safety you get the ball though. So if your offense can get a field goal, the other offense never sees the field again.

Also, this means both teams have to play offense and defense, which I like.

by RaxGrissman :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 11:39pm

true. but then there would be a free kick, so the safety-ing team would have a huge advantage at that point either way, in a first past 4 system

by RickD :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:17pm

The offense that yields a safety wouldn't get the ball again until the other team had gotten the ball in good field position.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:19pm

Are they going to commission ZEUS, Brian Burke, or anyone else to check to see if this doesn't end up favoring the team that starts on defense?

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:35pm

Did they do adequate statistical research when deciding the current rules?
Are they known for their humility and willingness to listen to outside sources?
Has fairness ever trumped money?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:04am

Why would that even be a problem?

by RickD :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:18pm

How could they research the potential impact of rules that had yet to be implemented?

by Francisco (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:54pm

It makes no sense to change it for playoff games and not for the regular season-- either it's unfair or unsatisfying and needs to be changed, or it isn't and doesn't.

And I swear, if they do change it as proposed and people bitch and moan about how it favors the defensive team, I will have little patience.

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:34am

I agree with that sentiment. I'd get rid of overtime for regular season (a return to the past idea) and just have overtime in playoffs where somebody has to advance. Plus if a team wants to win, two point conversions late can get them the win (or the loss). And because someone has to advance in the playoffs, I'd like it to be the better team (at least on that day) rather than one that won a coin toss between two evenly matched teams.

by FooBarFooFoo (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 2:57am

... until you realize there are already different rules in place. Feel free to consult Mr. McNabb.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 3:59pm

It makes no sense to change it for playoff games and not for the regular season-- either it's unfair or unsatisfying and needs to be changed, or it isn't and doesn't.

yes, stupid ot change for palyoffs but nor for reg sesoan.

woudl be in fvaor of getting rid of reg seoasn overtime. not necessary and mst players dont like overtime in regular seaons.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:16pm

I'm with you. I would rather just have no regular season overtime.

by Rax Grissman (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:19pm

Yea, this could be a good idea. Part of me just thinks this is kind of a boring way to end a football game. but at the same time, it's still kind of exciting I guess to go for the tie. Either way I would like this better than the current OT rules. It would make sense to have ties in reg. season and longer overtimes in playoffs

by James-London :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:14pm

The regular season is easy: No overtime. If the scores are tied at the end of the 4th, then the game is tied. Problem solved.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Key19 :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:33pm

Ties are what make so much of soccer unwatchable. No one wants to commit 3+ hours to something that doesn't even have a resolution in the end.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:47pm

ties have resolution

if two teams tie in week 1 in 2010 resoltuoion is that the teams were even that day. if both of those teams have division oponents that lose in week 1, then of the two tied teams neither of them would be in last place after week 1.

if you dont like tie games then stick to baksetball, basbeall and college football

no crying and tieing in baseball

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:20pm

I do.

But then my favorite film director is Peter Weir, so obviously I'm not bothered by lack of resolution in general.

by greybeard :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 9:14pm

It only makes soccer unwatchable to people who only care about the result. I love soccer and I have seen great games that ended in ties and terrible games that did not end in ties.
A tie matters both on soccer and football, because it affects the standings just like a win and loss. So the game does have an outcome that is as much as a resolution as a win or loss.

by Tim Gerheim :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:39pm

Ties in soccer aren't bad in general, but nil-nil ties make for a pretty empty experience. Given how unlikely that is to happen in a football game, it's not really the same thing.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:43am

A nil-nil game that's the result of general offensive ineptitude is tedious (and this is the nature of most such games). A nil-nil game that's the result of immaculate defending getting the better of good forward play at both ends can be a treat, at least in my opinion. The Champions League semi final first leg between AC Milan and Inter in 2003 was a classic case in point - Shevchenko and Cannavaro were both pretty close to their absolute peaks, and that night Cannavaro had the best of it, playing perhaps the finest game I have ever seen from a centre half (and as a Chelsea season ticket holder I've had the priviledge of watching some truly great players at that position on a regular basis over the last twelve years).

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:39am

Ties also tend to avoid the problems with tie breakers between teams with identical records at the end of season because the teams only play 16 games. How many times in history (when ties were possible) has a team with a tied ended up with the same record as another team? How often do tie breakers come into play at the end of a season? There's usually several and the only one that really feels satisfying is head to head record. Occasionally division record.

by Lance :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:36pm

Really? Does anyone really think "I'd love to watch that game, but it might end in a tie so I'm going to skip it"??? The only people who argue that ties make soccer unwatchable are the people who don't like soccer to begin with and are trying to find some concrete reason to justify it. These are the same people who don't like baseball because it's "too slow" or hockey because "they can't see the puck" and so on. There are real reasons why people do or don't like a sport, and game mechanics almost never have anything to do with it.

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:16pm

The best suggestion for overtime was suggested by a Berkeley economist.

Instead of starting with a coin flip, you start with an auction.

Jets bid that they'll take the ball at the 15.
Patriots will take it at the 12.
Jets concede the auction.

OT begins 1st and 10 from the 12, Patriots ball.

(Those might not be the exact mechanics of it: you could have verbal bidding by coaches or captains, or secret one-time bids placed to the refs.)

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:18pm

The coinflip's element of chance is completely eliminated. How is this not perfect?

by Kramer (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:04pm

because if both teams kick a field goal, you're right back where you started, with the coin toss winner having an advantage again.

by justme_cd :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:29pm

Just because I like the idea:

- In a silent auction, what could the tie breaker be if they both submit the same yard line?

- In a verbal auction, who bids first?

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 5:49pm

Doesn't matter who bids first. If a coach find it to be a disadvantage to bid first, he can just start by bidding on the opponents 30 - that'll force his opponent to bid under, and so on... Even if they start like that, and my gambling experience say they won't, the auction will a)make for good TV and b) take 2 minutes, tops.

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:41am

In versions I have heard of this, one team chooses half yards (10 1/2, 20 1/2) while the other chooses whole yards. There won't be any ties this way. And it could be a standard, home team gets whole yards or vice versa. It could be done and done fairly. Whether it is the best way could be debated.

(edit) Someone else mentioned one team gets even numbers and the other odds. Same idea, probably more likely to be implemented than half yards. Though either idea is unlikely to be implemented in the NFL.

by Lou :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 5:46pm

this idea eliminates kickoffs, special teams are part of the game. why not have both teams bid to see where they kickoff from, i feel like i've seen that idea somewhere before...

by Rax Grissman (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:07pm

agreed. a good system has to incorporate all teams (off, def, st) or none at all (ie: no OT)

by mm (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 9:32pm

The method they talked about would eliminate kickoffs, but punting and field goal kicking would still be in the game.

Bidding where you kick off from would be odd. Teams would generally like to receive; they'll likely 'win' the auction by picking a spot far enough into enemy territory that they feel comfortable onside kicking the ball (a deep kick would be an automatic touchback anyway). Of course, an onside kick might be the perfect random way to start overtime.

Bidding where the opponent kicks off from might be a bit better, but I think they'll still end up close enough that a team decides an onside kick is the best decision.

by RaxGrissman :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 11:05pm

It's interesting, but personally I think every facet of the game should be included in OT rules. forgetting about kickoffs would lead to players with good return skills (ie: Cribbs) and kickers with good touchback skills to be marginalized, not to mention the special teams in general, which are often a strength of the team which helped them get to that point in the gain, or on the contrary, the weakness that allowed the other team to catch up

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:48am

Special teams already plays a tremendous role in OT.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 8:45pm

I don't think that was suggested by a "Berkley economist". That idea is older than the hills (and probably Bishop Berkley for that matter). There were very sophisticated auctions for non-commercial purposes in the mid 1500s, if not earlier.

The first time something is mentioned in the academic literature does not equal the first time it was ever thought of, as much as some academics might like you to think that.

by tuluse :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 9:59pm

Just because something is old, doesn't mean someone recent didn't suggest it as a solution.

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 8:37am

My source was an article I read on espn.com in 2004. ESPN credited it "a Berkeley economist." It was the first time I'd heard it, and I'm not taking credit for it.

No matter who thought of it though, remember it and you'll always have the smartest sounding thing to say when the overtime discussion comes up.

by DZ (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 4:57pm

What's wrong with the current system?

1. it's fair. Both teams have a 50/50 chance before the coin flip.

2. So what if there is 'luck' involved. There is luck involved on nearly every play. Luck is part of football.

I see absolutely no reason both teams should have a guaranteed possession. Making it "win by 6" is going to lead to a lot of ties.

Making a change just for playoffs is beyond stupid.

by Rax Grissman (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:10pm

there's luck involved in football, we might as well minimize it when we can. I think it's 60/40 in the last 20 years, with 60 going to the winner of the coin flip. it seems pointless that there's a 20% swing towards a team based on the coin flip. there are certainly interesting ways of avoiding this, and we should explore all avenues before assuming things cannot be fixed.

by DZ (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:11pm

The ways of avoiding it just prolong the game, which isn't the point. The point is to end the game as quickly as possible while still generating a result.

by RaxGrissman :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 11:11pm

why do you say that in OT suddenly the goal is to make the game end faster? I agree that we shouldn't have endlessly long overtime games, but if we can make a change that would increase game length marginally while decreasing the importance of a random coin flip on the final outcome we should do so. a result which is very skewed towards the winner of a coin flip (complete chance) is not desirable.

to me, the 4 points to win in OT seems fair. perhaps we'd need to see it in place to truly judge, but it would certainly decrease the importance of the coin flip while only marginally increasing game time.

by Bobman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:46am

I like some of the sugggestions above (especially the auction).

The NFL, in subtle and not so subtle ways, indicates than an early end to the game is desirable-- it's sudden death, so the first score ends it (rather than a full period) so that indicates in some ways they want it to end. And if it does not resolve itself within 15 minutes, it remains a tie as well, further indicating the NFL wants a W/L outcome, but not at the expense of an eternal game. (Advertisers, networks, other TV shows all are considered in this equation, I am sure.)

I am surprised that, as a Colt fan, DZ isn't all for a proposal that minimizes special teams! Maybe now that they have a competent KO guy it isn't such a big deal anymore.

The auction appeals to the poker player in me, the MBA, the eBay shopper--but every aspect of it should be televised--coach conversations with the OC/DC, the computer jockey printing out the optimal yard line and bidding strategy for the Pats, while Al Davis has a burly guy in cowboy boots and a giant Stetson swilling the dregs of a bottle of Jack Daniels making his decisions. Yelling into the mike: "We'll take it on the two! Top that, you pussies! Hey, where's my Buffalo wings at?" Talk about reality TV--this is big stakes tension, drama, comedy, passion, pathos, bathos, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis!

Think of the prop bet potential for the superbowl!

by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:20am

Bob summarized the arguments well.

Sudden death and the prospect of a tie at the end of OT are pretty strong indicators that the purpose of OT is to end the game with a result as quickly as possible.

by RaxGrissman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:55am

Sure, but what does that mean in the end really. Just sounds like an appeal to tradition. and in the end tradition is often BS.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:56pm

It's not due to tradition, it's because TV Networks don't want 4 hour games, the NFLPA doesn't want more injuries, and the NFL is happy to make both sides happy and count the money flowing in.

by RaxGrissman :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 12:32am

A first past 4 overtime would add maybe 10-15 minutes. in relation to the rest of the game this is nothing

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 1:17am

No it's not "nothing" the networks expect a game to end by a certain time. If it doesn't, it screws up their schedule. You better hope it's not an early game, then if it goes too long, the network isn't allowed to show it.

by Alexander :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 1:40am

Why is everyone obsessed with the networks?

I'm sure the 30 minutes of overtime coverage have higher ratings than anything else they could be showing.

by Jerry :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 3:51am

The same networks that dictate scheduling and starting times and put billions of dollars into the league?

The networks don't sell commercial time during overtime, and, in fact, they won't start showing ads on a late game while an early game is in OT. (They want to wait until they have the whole network, and it's amazing how quickly the game moves when there aren't commercial breaks.)

by RaxGrissman :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 3:56am

If the rules change the networks can adapt. that's part of the business. the NFL still makes the a ton on money so it's not like they would drop the contracts and ditch the NFL. And thus I don't really see why we'd worry about the networks at all.

by Justin Zeth :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 8:46am

I don't think you quite understand. The networks control the lion's share of the money. That means the networks make the rules.

by RaxGrissman :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 6:41pm

Sounds like you've been reading too much Alex Jones.

I can't see the networks having a big problem with games that are 10-15 minutes longer maybe once a week. Look at the scouting combine. The NFL is pure network gold right now. I'm sure they aren't going to clash with the NFL over some new rule that makes games occasionally last 10-15 minutes longer. A first to four system wouldn't be that bad at all time wise.

Unless, of course, the Illuminati media uses mind control against the NFL and the people to get its way. But then, you know, whatever

by Marko :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 4:05am

Because revenue from the networks is easily the NFL's largest source of revenue. The NFL has no interest in doing anything to unnecessarily upset the networks.

As tuluse said, long overtime games can screw up a network's schedule. They also can cut into the available audience for later games on the same or other networks. For example, a long OT for a CBS early game can cut into the available audience for the Fox late game or, if the late game is on CBS, prevent a portion of the audience from seeing the start of that late game because they are watching the end of the OT game. A long OT for a late CBS or Fox game can cut into the available audience for NBC's SNF pregame show or even the SNF game itself if the OT game goes really long.

by RaxGrissman :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 6:51pm

OT is a part of sports really. Other sports and their networks deal with long OTs. Look at baseball, sometimes that goes like 14 innings (which is around another 1.5 hours) (25 innings in 1984 is the modern record, a 26 inning tie in 1920 as well), and it's not even that uncommon, and really that can continue until infinity. Same with basketball and double OT triple OT and so on. If anything, the first to four rule is still extremely quick compared to these other sports. I simply don't see how a small rule change that extends the game longer only sometimes and comes into play maybe once a week would be that big a deal for the networks. If anything, the networks should be happy to accommodate the NFL, and perhaps they can adapt to make OT advertising deals too, since that's a whole part of the business. Never underestimate the ability of capitalists/corporations to find a way to make more money.

In short, forget about the networks.

by Spielman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:31am

If that's the point, why play the game at all? Just flip a coin, one team wins, one team loses.

In other words, that's not actually the point.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 5:57pm

what if make overtime first team to 6 pts?
if reciving team score touchdown on 1st drive then game over

if recieivng team score Fg then other team is now trailing by 3 points when get ball. that team have 3 choices-
a.) kick Fg to tie game
b.) score touchdown to win game
c.) don't scorre and lose

B and C scenarios end game.

A scenario keep game going a little more.

by tuluse :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:00pm

I like first to 4 points better because if your defense somehow forces 2 safeties, they deserve to win.

by Eddo :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:14pm

Right, or a field goal plus a safety.

First-to-four ensures that any two scores win the game.

by Lou :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 5:56pm

the simplest solution would be to always allow the home team to "win" the toss. They always get to decide whether to kick or recieve and just call it part of home field advantage. At least this way you're not conferring a significant advantage based on the flip of a coin, and both teams know to plan accordingly going in.

i don't understand why they wouldnt just play the full quarter in the playoffs. would networks really be upset by more playoff football? if OT happens in the first game of the day, just delay the kickoff of the second game until its over.

I would also be happy with first to 4, but this current idea the NFL is looking at seems poorly thought out.

by Justin Zeth :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:28pm

The players do NOT want to play 15 extra minutes. The TV networks don't especially want an extra 15 minutes, either. This is a big reason why nothing like win-by-4 or no-field-goals has already been implemented, much less mandating a full extra quarter. All parties financially involved prefer for overtime to end as quickly as possible.

Just use the two-kids-with-cake concept, as FO advocated years ago. Away team names where to spot the ball, home team decides whether to take the ball or give it to the away team, first to score wins.

The other problem with outlawing field goals is that it will result in a lot of ties. Ties suck. Fans hate them. The NFL is the only major American sport that still allows ties. Hockey did away with them five years ago; college football did away with them 10+ years ago; basketball's never allowed them, and baseball hasn't allowed them since the advent of stadium lights.

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:52am

Two kids with cake is another solution I love.

by DGL :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:57pm

I prefer the "allow ties in regular season, play a full period in the playoffs" -- and if it's tied at the end of the fifth period, then play a sixth.

Failing that, I prefer the splitting the pizza approach: winner of the toss gets to choose kickoff spot (or to "defer" and have the other team pick a kickoff spot); other team then chooses whether to kick or receive.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:39pm

re: 22
Justin Zeth wrote nFl only major American sport that allow ties.
Thing is that NFl most popular league/sport in country. Popint is fact that games can end in ties hasn't turned away fans

if league get rid of reg seaosn OT more ties will happen but sport still going to be ppopular . cant see people losing interest if are 10-20 ties over course of 256 games

by Jerry :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 8:41pm

The problem isn't the tie, it's the team(s) playing conservatively for the tie at the end of regulation.

by bubqr :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:46pm

Silent auction with one team betting on odd numbers and the other on even numbers still is the best idea I've seen so far.

by RaxGrissman :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 11:13pm

I just don't like how the special teams are marginalized in this system

by Bobman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:54am

I prefer a televised open auction with 2 minutes of active bidding and cameras and mics everywhere. Home team starts. 15 seconds time limit per bid--if you do not make one it is automaticaly conceded for you.

The Vikings might have a problem with that.

(I hate checking on jokes, but they were the ones who flubbed their draft pick one year, right?)

Think of the drama--Belichick coldly calculating, Polian throwing a TV monitor across the owner's box, Bill Parcells laughing demonically non-stop for 120 seconds, Dan Snyder paying $2M per year to recent college grads with strong game theory thesis papers.

by Justin Zeth :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 6:47pm

holy crap, Raiderjoe spelled my name right. My day is ruined :(

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:08pm

copy and pasted it. wanted to makme sure not offensive to you

if didnt copy and paste probably wouldve typed wrong becuuase type fast

by Jim D (not verified) :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 8:52pm

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't mind OT the way it is now

by tuluse :: Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:01pm

It's better than college, but I don't think it's good.

by slipknottin :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:07am

Why not just ban FGs in OT? First team to get a TD

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 8:31am

Because that way you'll get a lot of long overtimes and a lot of ties. Scoring touchdowns is hard, and will get harder if the other team knows you can't kick a field goal.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:18am

I will again be the person who votes for the college system, it's the most entertaining by far, stats and special teams be damned.

Please, please, please do not completely take out overtime. Ties are awful. There's nothing worse than watching a movie where neither the good guys nor the bad guys win.

I also agree that only changing the OT rules for the postseason is beyond silly. If you think the rules are unfair, why keep them for the regular season? I'd be fine with the auction rule, it's fair if uninteresting, but I don't see anything like that ever happening. And if it did I'd bet teams would just make a cheat sheet to give to their coaches for how far to bid (kind of like they do for 4th down decisions), so I don't see there being much excitement.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:18am

I absolutely cannot stand the college overtime version. I have sat through entire games only to turn them off when they go to overtime. At that point I know most of the story of the game, and it's easier to just read the results later than sit through another hour of a long, brutally dull exercise that vaguely resembles what I consider football to be.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:49pm

To each their own, I think it's the most exciting part of any game, shy of perhaps a last second long touchdown drive to win.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:10pm

I've never understood the American hatred of ties. Soccer manages to be the world's most popular sport despite an abundance of them, and I've never heard a soccer fan complain that a game was boring because it was tied. I tied game might of course be boring, but that's not the same thing. In cricket, which I imagine can probably make a case for being the world's second most popular sport (there's an awful lot of Indians and Pakistanis who love them some cricket, even if they can't all afford a TV to watch it on), a tied match is pretty much guaranteed to have been a hugely exciting one (note that cricket distinguishes between a tie and a draw - certainly many drawn games are boring).

Tough to think of cinematic examples, but most of my favourite plays and novels don't really involve anyone winning (generally because every character anyone could give a stuff about quite definitely loses) - Equus, Amadeus, Othello, Hamlet, Lorenzaccio, The Jew of Malta, Love of the Nightingale, Use of Weapons, Jude the Obscure, Les Liaisons Dangereuses . . . Actually, ok, No Country for Old Men is a pretty awesome movie, and it's tough to really call anyone a winner there.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:47pm

It's a cultural thing I suppose, most people I talk to can't stand the idea of ties.

As for your literary examples, I think one side losing is fine. I haven't read/seen most of the things you cite, but Othello and Hamlet definitely qualify. No Country for Old Men does too (even if I don't understand why people like that movie so much, but that's another story). But if neither side is better or worse off for their wear then that's just a crappy ending IMO.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:32am

My suggestion is somewhat artificial, but I think it works: the team that receives the kickoff to start the overtime cannot win by a field goal on its first possession. After the first change of possession (by whatever means), the first score wins. If they take the kickoff and march down for a touchdown, so be it. This eliminates the "decent return of the opening kickoff, one or two first downs, long field goal, game over" result that is the worst aspect of the current system, but still maintains the "sudden death" aspect that avoids unduly prolonging the game. I'm sure there are problems with it, but I think it's an interesting modification of the 'win by four' theme that avoids some of the problems with that suggestion.

by Eddo :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:43am

This is the exact proposal the NFL is considering.

From the Extra Point text:
"In the new format, each team would get the ball at least once, unless the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown."

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 9:41pm

Good God! The NFL's proposal IS very similar to my idea. This means (a) I should have copyrighted or patented or whatever it when I had it a number of years ago, and (b) my idea must suck.

by EricG (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:09am

Why not put the ball on the 15 yard line at the start of OT?

by Alexander :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:36am

4 Points is the obvious solution. No more: Kickoff>Start at 35> 2-3 First downs> Field Goal

Gaining 30 yards is not the offense "winning"

by Bobman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:58am

Likewise, a sucky turnover at your own 35 would normally doom you to an instant FG death. The NFL would celebrate the early end of the game for network reasons and fans getting home before the beer makes them completely unable to operate a car, but one freak play endings are not teribly satisfying, either.

At least the 4 pt rule would require the other guys to march 30 yards and give your D 4-5-6-8 plays to prevent the TD....

by Jerry :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:11am

For me, one of the best features of sudden death is its suddenness. It's particularly the case in hockey, where any shot can end the game. (Wasn't the gold medal OT great?) In football, though, where getting into position for a field goal is such a priority, overtime is that much less exciting, and therefore, less satisfying.

by RaxGrissman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:39am

I dunno, it just doesn't work in football. Personally, I just want as little avoidable elements of chance affecting the outcome as possible.

by nathand2010 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:20am

I always see the elaborate proposals for overtime to try and make it fair. Why not go with the simple solution? Start a new period, put 10 or 15 minutes on the clock, flip a coin and kick off. No other changes - whoever leads when the clock runs out will win.

I picked a minimum of 10 minutes so that each team should get at least one drive. If one team can hold the ball the entire period, that's a pretty dominant offensive performance, deserving of a victory.

by Chad (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:32pm

I must be the only person who likes it as is. I don't see what the big problem is with "not getting the ball". The defense does play still, right? If they can't stop the other team's offense, too bad.

by RaxGrissman :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:18pm

Sure. But a simple rule change will make that true, but also make OT more interesting. Like a first to four points thing. The current system was designed for stronger defenses/weaker offenses and weaker kickers. Times have changed. Peter King actually sums it up well on his MMQB that was posted on FO today.

by Marko :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 2:26pm

Rest assured that you are not the only one who likes it as is. I do, too, and so does C.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:47pm

I think it's a case of the grass is always greener on the other side.

NFL overtime works. As somebody pointed out the players & networks don't want it to last longer... The coaches at the end of regulation know the rules and can already play accordingly ( we've seen some guys like Gruden or Vermiel go for 2).

I think the casual fan that doesn't like OT, doesn't like it because one team might not get the ball on offense but offense is only 1/3 of your team.

Two teams can't have the ball at the same time and you are never going to get out of that "problem". The casual fan is biased towards offense, while caring less about D&ST. If you can't stop anybody you don't deserve to win anyway.

The nerds on this site love the "auction" idea, but how long and hard will it be to "explain" the concept to Joe Public when you impliment that rule? It sounds cool but once the novelty wears off... You are never going to get that poker scenerio that somebody dreamed about, and all it adds is another layer to criticse the coach about... " Mike Mccarthy is an idiot, why didn't he bid the 14 yard line because the defense was reeling blah blah blah".

Everybody loves hashing out their favorite or creative new OT rule, but OT works just fine as it is.

by verifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 1:48pm

I'm not sure I like (or know all of) the unintended consequences of this proposal. If the team with the first possession scores a FG the other team now has a 4 down strategy imposed on them, altering the normal play (perhaps a deserved advantage offsetting the first possession advantge of their opponent). The auction idea seems outside of normal football but is fairest. Perhaps the least intrusive change is moving the kickoff spot for overtime.

by g (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 2:31pm

My new crazy idea: instead of auctioning off field position as has been suggested before, auction off the number of yards needed for the first first down in overtime. If one team is willing to accept 1st and 23, and the other team 1st and 25, then let the 2nd team receive the ball.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:51pm

You're probably just exaggerating to make a point, but neither team would go anywhere near that far. I doubt it'd be worth it to go any farther than 11 yards for a first down, and perhaps not even that, so it'd be hard to have an auction.

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 12:02am

It's just for the first first down I think. Not all of them.

by g (not verified) :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 11:30am

right, it would affect just the very first first down in overtime.

by RickD :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:16pm

Should we call this the Peter King rule? Or the Brett Favre rule?

by nat :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:26pm

We seem to be addressing two separate issues:

1) It is common for the team that receives the kickoff to win on their first drive.
2) The coin toss has too much effect on the chances of victory.

I don't have too much sympathy for people who complain about (1). By overtime, each team has had about ten drives. As fans, we get to see our team's offense enough.

As for (2), it's a matter of reducing the value of receiving the ball. There are a number of simple changes that would do that.

Loss of down: the receiving team gets 3 downs instead of 4 on their first possession. After they get a first down, play proceeds normally.

Loss of yardage: the receiving team is penalized some yardage (20 yards or half the distance?) after the kickoff. Onside kick becomes as option.

Loss of yards to go: the receiving team is penalized some yardage, increasing the yards to go for their first down.

Loss of player: the receiving team plays one man down on the kickoff. Reduces return yardage.

New kickoff spot: in overtime, the kicking team kicks from the 35 or 40 yard line - possibly mixed with changes to touchback rules so the kicking team keeps the ball in play. (Touchback that lands in bounds: 10 yard line. Touchback that doesn't: 30 yard line)

Any of these (and others) mitigate the "coin toss determines the game" problem, while leaving sudden death intact.

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 12:04am

You ignored a third concern.

Overtime rules change the core of NFL football. Which all your ideas do too.

by nat :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 7:49am

Not so for the first three suggestions.

Loss of down: second and ten is the second most common down and distance.
Loss of yardage: drives can and do start all over the field.
Loss of yards to go: first and fifteen and first and twenty happen after offensive penalties every week.

Playing a man down is new. It is a way to reduce kick returns. Short kick returns do happen, and are what we are trying to achieve to balance the OT chances. And playing a man down on a kickoff doesn't look much different to the eye. Every once and a while, a team plays a man down on defense by accident. It's not obvious on the screen until they count of the players. It just looks like a weak defense. The same would hold true for returns.

Kicking from a different spot is "new": Actually, it's old. But adjusting the touchback rules to encourage keeping the ball in play is new. I hardly consider touchbacks a "core" value of the NFL. They aren't exciting to any fan that I know.

The point is that there are a myriad of ways to reduce the value of receiving the kick without changing anything about the OT rules from the moment the offense takes the field onwards. There's no need to outlaw field goals or make them special. There's no need to change the definition of "winning". There's no need to outlaw the kickoff - a very exciting play that fans, TV, and the NFL love.

by RaxGrissman :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 6:58pm

All this is way too contrived to me. Why not just go with a first to four? It's the same except a 40 yard field goal doesn't instantly win it. I don't really like messing around with specific rules just to make it slightly more egalitarian when you can easily just say "well, get more than four points and you win".

by ReiDeBastoni (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:32pm

I like the win by 6 idea, but with the following condition: Safeties should be changed from worth 2 points and a free kick to the same scenario as a TD, and the scoring team has to kick off to the other team.

I never understood why the most difficult scoring play in the game was only worth 2 points. Anyone know something I don't?

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:53pm

It's not. It also gives you possession of the ball after a free kick, which (I believe) is worth another 1-2 expected points as well.

by Jerry :: Tue, 03/02/2010 - 3:43am

The safety was originally an offensive strategy - step out of play and give up 2 points for 20 yards of field position; hence the name. (Teams still do this on very rare occasions.) As it's become a defensive triumph rather than an offensive concession, it would make sense to make the safety worth more, although getting the ball after scoring is an advantage.

by Lebo (not verified) :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 3:43pm

Not sure if this has been mentioned (or if it will be read); but why not just give the team kicking off in OT the right of reply should the receiving team score first (on any possession in OT)?

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 4:01pm

I have long been a proponent of the "first team to 4" solution.

(As noted by others, in most cases teams will win with 6 but I can't help but give a team the win for a FG and a safety or, miracle of miracles, 2 safeties.)

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 03/01/2010 - 5:16pm

If I ruled the world with an iron fist, there would be no overtime in the regular season and a tie at regulation's end would stand as a tie; in the playoffs we would use the two-kids-with-cake method. That's my personal preference.

But if I'm running the NFL, looking to its financial well-being, and have to answer to the owners, players and (most importantly) TV networks, that's not an option, because what especially the networks want is (a) a resolution and (b) a resolution as fast as possible. That means I'm disinclined to change the current system at all.

If for some reason overwhelming pressure forces me to change it, I would simply implement what apparently the NFL is actually presently considering: The team that receives the initial overtime kickoff must score a touchdown to win the game on the opening drive; if they kick a field goal, the other team gets to receive a kick and try to tie or win; after that it's sudden death.