Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime
Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vince Verhei and Ben Riley

The Chargers' 23-17 overtime victory over the Colts in the AFC playoffs once again brought the NFL's sudden death overtime rule into the spotlight. Many critics feel that sudden death is unfair, because the team that loses the coin toss too often loses in overtime without getting the ball. Of course, if they lose, it's because their special teams and defense weren't up to the job, but let's forget that for a second. In the Audibles discussion of last weekend's games, Will Carroll suggested that the NCAA's overtime, with its alternating possessions starting in opponent's territory, was superior. He was roundly shouted down; the consensus among Outsiders is that the NCAA's overtime creates an abbreviated, bastardized form of football. It removes punts and kickoffs from the game, it leads to ridiculous statistical inflation, and it can take a very long time to finish.

With that being said, it's always possible there's a better solution out there. We present to you these alternative solutions to the overtime riddle. If anyone from the NFL is reading this, feel free to steal any of these. We promise not to sue.

Overtime format: "Each Team Gets Possession"
Premise: This solution really doesn't solve anything, but it gets mentioned so often, we're listing it here just so we can explain why it won't work. The theory is, since the team that wins the coin toss unfairly gets first chance to score, the coin toss loser should be guaranteed a possession in overtime as well. Which leads to the question: What happens if both teams score on their opening possessions? Does it become sudden death at that point? If so, how is that in any way a more fair solution? The coin toss winner will still get an extra possession. For that matter, what constitutes a possession? Suppose the coin toss loser opens overtime with a surprise onside kick and recovers the ball, then scores. The other team has never had possession; don't they deserve a chance to have the ball? There are just too many complications here that will only serve to make games longer without guaranteeing that they are any more fair.

Overtime format: "NHL meets the NFL on NBC!"
Premise: The basic complaint regarding the current overtime format is that the team that wins the coin flip has the first chance to score. Why everyone freaks out over this is a bit of a mystery, since (a) the team that successfully calls the toss only wins the game about 60 percent of the time, and (b) the defense of the other team remains on the field and has every opportunity to stop the team from scoring. In any event, if the problem is the arbitrary possession resulting from the randomness of the coin flip, the solution is to make the first possession in overtime the result of a non-random event. Here's one possibility: Have the NFL equivalent of a hockey shootout. The team that scored last during regulation nominates one guy to take the ball at the 20-yard line. The opposing team in turn nominates one defensive player to stand on the goal line. Blow the whistle, and let them battle, mano a mano, for the right to have the first possession in overtime. Alternatively, each time nominates its fastest player to participate in a race from the 40-yard line.

Overtime format: "Now THIS Is A Shootout!"
Premise: If you're going to decide ties with an abbreviated, bastardized version of football, may as well go all the way with it and make it snappy. Pick one end zone, and give each team five tries at a two-point conversion. If still tied, continue until one team has the lead and each team has had the same number of chances. This overtime format is better than the NCAA version because it should decide things very quickly, and team and individual statistics won't be artificially inflated (except for two-point conversions, but really, who cares about those?).

Overtime format: "The Easterbrook Compromise"
Premise: In his latest column, TMQ writes: "Here is my NFL overtime proposal. An entire fifth quarter is played: but in the fifth quarter kicking is forbidden, except after scores. No punts, no field-goal attempts, no PAT kicks. Such a system would ensure each team more than one overtime possession, but enforce a standard of very aggressive play because you'd have to go for it on every fourth down and go for two after a touchdown." Genius! Of course, the fact that the two teams that play an entire extra quarter will be destroyed in the following week poses a slight problem. (As an aside, is anyone else mystified by ESPN's refusal to post a color picture of Gregg Easterbrook on its Web site? Even with the Worldwide Leader's latest site redesign, TMQ remains stuck in a George Bailey-like 1940s alternative reality. Baffling.)

Overtime format: "Make 'em Hurl!"
Premise: Are you familiar with the Irish sport of hurling? No? The basic idea, near as anyone can tell, is to run around with a large stick (the "hurley") and randomly whack the ball ("sliotar") and/or your opponent with no apparent purpose. One of hurling's more interesting aspects is its controversial overtime format, wherein one player runs headfirst at the goalie and spears him in the chest with his hurley, to see if he can drive him backwards into the goalpost and cause spinal damage. Are you telling us you wouldn't pay to see such a battle between, say, Haloti Ngata and Michael Roos?

Overtime format: "Just Keep Going"
Premise: This one's simple enough: Rather than restarting the game at the beginning of overtime, just pick up where the fourth quarter left off, with the same team in possession, at the same spot on the field, with the same down and distance to go. This may rob us of some dramatic finishes -- any team with possession of the ball late in a tie game will have no incentive to rush down the field, and in fact may be better off slowly churning up yards to make sure they don't score before regulation ends. But it does remove the random element -- the coin flip -- from overtime that most critics find so galling.

Overtime format: "To Hell With Sudden Death!"
Premise: To our knowledge, no other sport in no other league on the planet hockey is the only other sport on the planet that settles overtime periods by who scores first; they all go by who scores most. So why not just use a 10- or 15-minute overtime period, with all the standard rules concerning timeouts, replays, etc.? This guarantees that both teams will have to play offense and defense to win.

Overtime format: "To Hell With Field Goals!"
Premise: We will concede that it can be unsatisfying to watch a team take the overtime kickoff, pick up a couple of first downs, kick a field goal and go home. Rather than award the game to the first team to score any points in overtime, declare the first team to score at least four points in overtime the winner. This will require teams to score a touchdown, or score twice. At least then things will be decisive.

Overtime format: "To Hell With Overtime Entirely!"
Premise: Most NFL fans spent the month of December paying close attention to conference records and common opponents. Not Eagles fans. Thanks to the tie against Cincinnati, everyone knew precisely who was ahead of Philadelphia, and who was behind them. Maybe the NFL should eliminate overtime altogether, and games that are tied at the end of regulation should simply remain tied. It's kind of paradoxical, but if there are more ties in games, there will be fewer ties in the standings.

Overtime format: "Beer Pong"
Premise: Football is a grueling, violent, dangerous sport, and after 60 minutes of brutal action, it seems almost unfair to ask these men to expose their bodies to even more pain and destruction. Instead, why not settle things with America's favorite drinking game? Hey, if it's good enough for the Nintendo Wii, it's good enough for the NFL. If you're concerned that the Jared Allens and Koren Robinsons of the world will give some teams an unfair advantage, there's always rock-scissors-paper. Or, invite the fattest player on each team to compete in a game of Twister. You know you'd watch.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Keep Choppin' Wood

We're not sure who on the Chargers to blame for Reggie Wayne's 72-yard touchdown pass. You know the one, where the Colts caught San Diego unprepared, and by the time the Chargers realized what was going on, Wayne was already behind the defense with the ball in his hands, streaking for the end zone? Antonio Cromartie appeared to be most responsible for covering Wayne, but at the time he was standing sideways, staring at the sideline, until Wayne blurred by him. He wasn't the only one; Paul Oliver, playing safety to that side of the field, was flat-footed, looking to the sideline as well. Was this debacle Cromartie's fault? Oliver's? Head Coach Norv Turner's? Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera's? Tell you what: We're giving Keep Choppin' Wood to the Chargers as a whole. They can settle it amongst themselves to see who takes it home.

Colbert Award

With 105 yards rushing, 45 yards receiving and 178 return yards, and standing all of 5 feet, 6 inches tall, is there any doubt the award goes to Darren Sproles this week? And extra credit to a commenter on Kissing Suzy Kolber for coming up with the best new football nickname we've heard since, well, maybe ever: "43 Cent." Go shorty.

Best of the Rest

It's only been one week, but three teams have already put a big distance between themselves and the rest of the pack: BigCheese (54 points, seven players remaining), Superbears (48 points, six players remaining) and Sean D. (46 points, seven players remaining). No other team has more than 36 points. The keys to success? Playing Joe Flacco, Darren Sproles, or, in the case of BigCheese, both.

We'll update all our teams as well as the Best of the Rest teams next week, once things are a bit more settled.


183 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2010, 9:00am

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

My favorite method, and one that will never, ever get used is this:

The officials call both coaches (or team captains but given this format you'd probably want coaches) to the middle of the field.

It is sudden death, but no kickoff.

They flip a coin, the winner gets to make the first call.

He can elect to take the ball at any yard line, even his opponent's one yard line. The other coach can then make a counter offer of any position slightly worse. In the example above, he can say "we'll take it at their 2 yard line". And so on, backing up farther until the other coach says, fine, if that's where you want it, you can have it.

You'd want to mic this up.

Can you just see it?

Belichek: "We'll take it at our own 20".
Reid: "We'll take it at our own 19"
Belichek "Hmmm. we'll take it at our... 17"
Reid: "15!"
Belichek: "Take it!"

You can only bid in one yard increments.

Oh, and if the direction matters (wind, sun) you can use that as a tiebreaker. So you can go "20 and they get to pick direction" to top simply "20", but simply 19 tops that.

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

This is similar to, but more complicated than, the "Splitting the Overtime Pizza" approach proposed by FO's own MDS lo these five years ago. For those of you who can't see the link in this weird WordPress format, one team picks the spot of the kickoff and the other team decides whether to kick off or to receive from that spot. So in the SD-IND game, SD winning the toss would decide whether they want to choose the spot or the kickoff-receive option. Say they pick the option; IND says "We'll set the spot at the 40", and then SD decides whether they want to kick from the 40 or receive a kick from the 40. If the team setting the spot moves it too close to the opponent's end zone, the opponent will choose to kick; if they move it too close to their own end zone, the opponent will choose to receive.

I think MDS's approach is the most fair, but has the disadvantage that a large percentage of football fans wouldn't understand that it's fair...

125 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I, too, really liked this idea. It will never happen because a change to overtime rules would (I think) have to go through the competition committee. I have a hard time seeing coaches looking at this proposal and concluding anything other than "This gives me too much room to screw up by picking the wrong yard line." The winner of the toss would HAVE to choose to select the yard line as a decision to kick or receive will be met by the opponent selecting an extremely disadvantageous yard line. "Kick? Enjoy kicking from your own 1!" "Receive? Try receiving when I'm attempting an onside kick from your 11."

Once the "correct" yard line is determined after a feeling out process (where some coaches will do stupid things), every coach in the league will likely just copy each others primary strategy. So, to short-circuit all of this, it would simpler for the league to move the kickoff position up 5 yards (or some other predetermined magic number) ONLY for the overtime kickoff if the current kickoff position is too advantageous for the receiving team. While is probably the least complicated solution, it too is highly unlikely. I mean, just try explaining to people why the league kicks off from one yard line during regulation and another one in overtime, and how that's supposed to be fair.

126 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

The winner of the toss could elect to choose the yard line or to defer. The choice of kicking or receiving always comes after the choice of the yard line. So your scenario never happens - the winner of the toss picks "defer", the loser of the toss says "opponent's 11 yard line!" and the winner of the toss says "Kick off!"

But I tend to agree that it would never be adopted, because it gives still more decisions for coaches to get criticized over...

174 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

The first option , "Each Team Gets Possession" is the best. I am not sure why you say it cannot work. If the first team scores, the other team gets a chance to score also. Each team has a chance to score. This is the only fair way.

"What happens if both teams score on their opening possessions? Does it become sudden death at that point? If so, how is that in any way a more fair solution?"
Of course it does not become sudden death. The cycle repeats and the other team gets another chance to score.

"What constitutes a possession? Suppose the coin toss loser opens overtime with a surprise onside kick and recovers the ball, then scores. The other team has never had possession; don't they deserve a chance to have the ball?"
Yes, if coin flip loser does an on-side kick and scores, that was their possession and the coin flip winner gets a chance to score also.

"There are just too many complications here that will only serve to make games longer without guaranteeing that they are any more fair."
Letting each team have a chance is the ONLY method that guarantees fairness. I do not comprehend what you say is not fair about this. The game will be played until the first team scores and the second does not. This method will have to be used in the playoffs until someone wins. I think it is better to have a fair winner even if the game is longer and one team is more tired the next week. In the regular season, if they want to keep one overtime then there will just have to be more ties.

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Oh, and fwiw, soccer experimented with Sudden Death, they called it the "Golden Goal" in english (I think it sounded better in other languages).

FIFA used it for a time, the idea was to make soccer more exciting... in the 1998 world cup I definitely remember France beating Paraguay on one. I think a few other matches had some as well.

They no longer use it. Except, looking itup, for their "beach world cup". And some college soccer leagues us it.

Quite honestly, you can argue with how exciting or not it made it, the most exciting world cup game I ever saw (Germany/France in 1982) played without it, and saw regulation end 1-1, France score first in overtime, then go up 3-1, only to have a furious comeback by Germany to tie it 3-3, and then get settled via shootout.

36 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

New Gnland would have at least one more pro sports championship this decade if soccer was sudden death - in the 2006 (I think) MLS Cup, the Revolution scored with 7 minutes left in overtime, then Houston scored with 6 minutes left and won the game on penalty kicks.

Oh, and hockey uses sudden death for 5 minutes in the regular season (followed by a tie or a shootout, depending on the league), and sudden death for as long as it takes in the playoffs, so the NFL isn't the only league to do that.

71 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Best game in the history of the World Cup, certainly since 1970. Two great teams (France would win Euro 84 and make the World Cup semis in 86, Germany would make the World Cup finals in 86 and win it in 90) playing great and then all the incidentals: the Battison injury by Schumacher, the 4 overtime goals, the first shootout in World Cup history.

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Of all of the ideas mentioned, I like the "Just keep Going" combined with "To Hell With Sudden Death". At the end of the 4th, when Manning had 40 seconds left, how different would it have looked if they knew they got the ball to start OT? No more crappy kneels to get just to OT and the coin flip when your first pass is incomplete, they would be running a real offense and hoping to break off a big play that will let them end it in regulation.

I think a 10 minute extra period is fine. When combined with "Just Keep Going", teams will probably score earlier in the period than before, giving the other team enough time to try to score as well. No coin flip complaints, no single possession complaints, only complaints that the teams are going to be too tired next week, but didn't OT last almost 8 minutes or so in the game this past weekend? I hate the college OT now because of how inflated scores and stats get (unless it's Pitt-ND, then it's just boring), and that it eliminates kicking and defense. However, it does give you a chance to see which coaches are truly stupid (hint: It's the ones that, when the first team doesn't score, only attempts to run up the middle, assuming that a 40+ yard FG is a gimme for a college kicker in OT).

Finally, in something that I just couldn't believe was true, I can't get NFL Network at my condo at all (Time Warner doesn't have it, and due to the direction my condo faces and HOA rules, I can't mount a dish on my deck that will get all the satellites so they can't install Dish/DirecTV), but when I was in Germany two weeks ago on my honeymoon, I got every single NFL Network game in my hotel room thanks to NASN. Good job NFL and Time Warner, I hate you both.

18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

HOAs cannot prohibit you from having a dish. Many claim they have the right to do so, even have it in their bylaws, will scream and complain, but its against a ruling by the FCC.

to quote:

"prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37") in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

Effective January 22, 1999, the Commission amended the rule so that it also applies to rental property where the renter has an exclusive use area, such as a balcony or patio."

However, reading it you might be screwed if the only way you can get a signal is if your satellite dish would have to extend off your your property. E.g., as long as it is on your balcony or patio (even if you are a renter) you're okay, but if you have to overhang outside that, then you're not covered.

The link I listed also gives a 1-800# you an call if your HOA is attempting to enforce illegal restrictions. Good luck.

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Believe me, I know the rule. However, this is the part of the rule to keep in mind:

"The rule applies to antenna users who live in a multiple dwelling unit building, such as a condominium or apartment building, if the antenna user has an exclusive use area in which to install the antenna. .... The rule does not apply to common areas, such as the roof, the hallways, the walkways or the exterior walls of a condominium or apartment building. Restrictions on antennas installed in these common areas are not covered by the Commission's rule. "

The exclusive use area that I have is my deck on the front of my condo, and unfortunately due to the direction that faces (it's a corner unit, not a townhouse or something where you can be on either side) I can see 4 of the 5 needed satellites, but I can't see the one that carries all of the networks and local signals, which is of course an unacceptable option. To be able to see all of them, I'd have to put it on the roof of the building, or on a deck of a condo that isn't mine (and I'm not sure any decks in our building have a good view honestly).

So, I was totally ready to install the Dish and then refuse to remove it for the HOA, or sue them if needed (side note: Our HOA sent out a letter this month letting us know they had accidentally charged us too much the past 18 months, but nothing about refunding that money or the interest, I can't find anything on the legality of that yet), but unfortunately my view of the south isn't good enough to allow me to do that. It sucks, but I am stuck with Time Warner and no other options it seems.

40 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Honeymoon in Germany?! Seriously?! I live right next to Germany, trust me fellas, Germany, in December at that, is not a place designed for honeymooning.

Are you a very beer-interested couple? Volkswagen maybe? Soccer, even?

I mean, it's not like you couldn't afford to go somewhere nice - Frace/Spain/Italy probably would've been cheaper...


67 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

We only spent 3 nights in Munich, and then spent a whole week in Paris. Munich won for a few factors:

- A direct train ride from Paris
- Friends had visited in the past two years and really liked it
- A good day trip my wife wanted (Fussen, to see Neuschstein Castle)
- Affordable
- Lots going on in the winter (Winter Market, etc...)

We also considered Nice (thought it might be dead right before Christmas), Spain (too long of a train ride to get to Paris) and others. Mostly it wound up winning since it was cheaper to stay in Munich for 3 nights and take a train to Paris and get to fly on Thursday and Tuesday than to just go to Paris and stay there for a week, flying on weekends.

That said, we didn't love Munich that much. The castles were neat, for a couple hours, Winter Market was interesting with lots of good food (if you like mulled wine, sausage, and deep fried desserts, which I did), it was far cheaper than Paris (so much cheaper), and the BMW Museum was awesome. I only mentioned Germany over Paris since our hotel in Paris didn't get NFL Network, though I did get Bills-Patriots tape delayed, with french announcers, and no commercials/halftime breaks (very nice). Munich was nice for 2.5 days, and then we were happy to move on to Paris, which we enjoyed far more.

169 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

i, too, honeymooned in germany, during the 2006 world cup. it was awesome, even though neither one of us drinks beer. touristy stuff during the day, fanfests in the evening.

my choice would be ties instead of OT during the regular season, but obviously you need to do something for the playoffs. of course, an even better way would be to have no playoffs either--best record wins the championship. but you'd need to get rid of this divisions/unbalanced schedule business, and a 31-game round robin regular season seems to be a bit long.

i know, i'm unamerican.

134 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Finally, in something that I just couldn't believe was true, I can't get NFL Network at my condo at all (Time Warner doesn't have it, and due to the direction my condo faces and HOA rules, I can't mount a dish on my deck that will get all the satellites so they can't install Dish/DirecTV), but when I was in Germany two weeks ago on my honeymoon, I got every single NFL Network game in my hotel room thanks to NASN. Good job NFL and Time Warner, I hate you both.

Meanwhile, based on your description of your NFL-laden honeymoon...your new spouse probably hates you.

141 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

My Idea is "Just Keep Going" but with 5 minute quarters, 3 time-outs (30 sec only) and the 2 minute warning each.

This means a team that can grind out a 16 play drive might ice it, and deserve to win. Otherwise, both will get at least one possession. Everything else is still football, including special teams, etc. After 1 or 2 such periods, PAT's would be dissalowed, 2 point conversions only.

You could combine that with "To Hell with Sudden Death" as you mention, to do either:
Team with ball at the end just keeps going from the same spot (like the end of the 1st or 3rd quarter, but this would make it more booring). You could also combine it with "To Hell with Sudden Death" where the team with the ball at the end gets to choose to kick or recieve (essentially, wins the coin toss by default).

8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

If either team is willing to kick off at the start of both halves, they get the ball first in sudden death overtime. Otherwise it stays the same.

72 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I'm thinking a Keep Choppin' Wood is more likely than a Colbert.

The upside is getting the ball first in OT. I have no idea what percentage of game go into OT, but I can't imagine it's more than about 1 in 10. And as stated above, the team that gets the ball first is only about a 60/40 favorite to win, as opposed to the roughly 50/50 one might expect before the coin toss happens. So, very roughly speaking, we're talking about a 10% increase to your chances of winning, in a situation that only happens 10% of the time, or roughly +1% to your chances of winning any given game.

Contrast that with giving up 1 offensive possession in EVERY game. From looking at the drive stats, teams seem to get about 180 possessions per season now. Take 16 away, and you can expect the offensive output to drop by a proportional amount. So we're talking about a roughly 9% decrease in offensive production. That's obviously a simplistic way to look at it, and I don't know how that translates into your chances of winning, but it clearly will hurt more than a little bit.

Basically, it boils down to hamstringing your team in every game, in order to acheive a modest advantage in one or two games a season. I'm assuming that we're talking about making this decision in every game. Using it selectively would probably be even more disastrous. The first time you did this and lost the game by 1 in regulation, the fans would call for your head.

109 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Say you elect to do this, you not only necessarily lose 1 possession, it could be 2!

You kick to start 1st half. Other team ends first half with the ball or a score. You are down 1 possession.

You kick to start 2nd half. Other team ends half with the ball or a score. You are down 1 possession again.


This also illustrates why I think receiving in the 2nd half is the best option when you win the coin toss. You could have an extra possession in the 2nd compared to the other team, and thus a better chance to win the game. At worst, you have equal possessions this way (in 2nd half). Taking the ball to start the game seems silly. Especially because if you received in the 1st half, but don't want to take a chance at the end of the half, you just kneel it and waste your extra possession. And don't even get me started on clock management.

135 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I understand the 'win toss, elect to receive after halftime' argument, and obviously, most NFL coaches think this way as well.

However...given the statistic that says (this was a few years ago) that the most useful indicator of probable victory wasn't "who's ahead entering the 4th quarter" but rather "who's ahead at the end of the 1st quarter", I might be inclinced to rethink that.

Assuming that the statistic that I saw (and just reproduced) is actually correct.

9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I don't see the problem with the "each team gets possession" method. A possession would be defined as having possession of the ball, so there would be no incentive to onside kick.

You ask "What happens if both teams score on their opening possessions? Does it become sudden death at that point? If so, how is that in any way a more fair solution? The coin toss winner will still get an extra possession."

That's only unfair if the second possession team has never heard of the two point conversion.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I would say no to this, as you can't say that your defense not fumbling the ball is something that needs to be accounted for. In college, I would guess that the ball would now go over to Team B, as Team A's possession to start ended with the change of possession initially (otherwise, in theory, you could throw a turnover on 4th and goal, then force a fumble, and have a new set of downs, and you shouldn't be able to benefit from a turnover like that), but I don't think you should tell the offense "Your defense made a great play, stopped them, but then made a mistake, so in return you don't even get a chance at their defense".

95 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Why is everyone assuming that the "equal possession" rule would only apply to the first possession? Why not have it be equal possessions until one team gains an advantage? Seems like that best mixes the fairness of the college system without removing parts of the game.

In that case, the answer to the "defense fumbles" question is that it doesn't matter. Either its considered one continuous possession for the offense, or the offense is now on its second possession. Either way, the defensive team will get the ball back.

117 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Because these schemes are meant to address the complaint that a situation in which a team wins a coin toss and scores on its first drive in overtime isn't "fair".

Requiring equal possessions after the first instead addresses a hypothetical complaint that allowing one team to win after scoring, allowing the other team to score, and scoring again isn't "fair". The correct response to which is instead, "Grow up."

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Colts fans might have had a bone to pick if SD took a cheap field goal to advance to the next round, but San Diego scored a touchdown, ergo, Indianapolis wasn't screwjobbed, they failed to stop San Diego. They can stop whining now, and the NFL and media can stop coddling their golden boy Colts.

I am in favor of two systems:

1. Regular season regulation ties stay tied; in postseason play a full quarter. It's not that necessary to break a regular season tie; the chance of injury outweighs the fan benefit of seeing a decision rendered. In the postseason, go all out, best team wins.

2. Disallow field goals in OT; keep the current system otherwise. The reason why sudden death overtime sucks is because advances in placekicking make them almost gimmes; scoring a safety is an example of good defense and special teams just as scoring a touchdown is an example of good offense.

If you abolish regular-season OT, I'm in favor of 1, if it is kept, I'm in favor of 2.

35 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I'm in favor of your first paragraph and point number (1) above (although not point number 2). Any system that fundamentally alters the rules of the game for the sake of overtime isn't my cup of tea, which is incidentally why I am very glad the NFL hasn't caved in to pressure and switched to NCAA overtime rules.

I also think a comeback of tie games as a semi-regular result would be good for the league. With only 16 games, I'd like to see more "space" for recognizing close games, and tie games seem perfect for that.

And I couldn't agree with you more about the Colts: thankfully, most reasonable people realize that the Colts don't have much of a complaint in this case.

77 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Pertaining to option #1, what happens if it's still tied after the quarter of OT? Play another full quarter, or go back to sudden death? If it's play another quarter, what happens if it's tied after that? If it's sudden death, isn't that what we were trying to avoid in the first place? And keep in mind that after all this, the winner will have to play another game next week.

99 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

They can play all night in the same format if they have to. If they didn't want to be dog-tired next week then all they had to do is win in regulation or the first OT.

Also, coaches could play to tie in the regular season, but you can't make the playoffs going 0-0-16. It would make Chillyball an unwieldy option in the NFL, at least.

I'm in favor of no regular season OT as most cases of overtime are avoidable and the negative fan benefit of having more injuries is more pressing than the positive fan benefit of having a decision rendered.

Of suggestions I've heard I like the first to 4 and the move the kickoff to the 40 proposals, although I'd rather just play a full extra quarter.

106 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

If you can make the playoffs going 8-8, you can make the playoffs going 0-0-16.

"They can play all night in the same format if they have to. If they didn't want to be dog-tired next week then all they had to do is win in regulation or the first OT."

Well, yeah. And if both teams follow that advice, they'll end up right back at a tie.

But more importantly, that doesn't address the logical reason sudden death is used in the first place. The NFL and the NHL realize that their sport is violent and exhausting, and that making the players play much longer than a regulation game is inviting serious injuries. At some point, it becomes an issue of player safety, not just tiredness for the next game.

20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I think moving the kickoff to the 40 yard line in the best solution. Any NFL kicker that doesn't need to worry about hang-time (barring real bad weather) should be able to kick through the endzone at the 40, guaranteeing a conservative team the opponent will start at the 20.

A more ballsy team could try some sort of squib or high blooper kick to attempt to pin the opponent deep, and the occasional really ballsy team could try an onside kick.

21 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

OK, since everyone's going to use this thread to rehash the OT discussion from the AFC Audibles thread, I will too.

No need to change overtime, because the concept of a fifteen-minute sudden death period isn't the problem. The problem is the random event determining who gets the ball first, so make it non-random. The team that scores last in regulation loses the option. So you know that if you're down three points in the closing seconds and you play conservatively (say, a run up the middle on 3-10 from the opponents' 16 yard line) to ensure you get a shot at the FG, you're giving the ball to the opposition to start OT. If you don't trust your defense to make at least one stop in OT, you better play more aggressively in regulation.

58 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

"If one team ties with eight points near the end, why do they get penalized? What more could they have done?"

Not be down by eight points near the end?

"And if the tie was created with more than five minutes left, why should it matter who tied it?"

I could see some complaints about unfairness in cases where Team A scores with 4-5 minutes left, Team B holds the ball until the end of the game, moving into long field goal range, and misses the FG, then gets the kickoff in OT. But the point is that both teams knew that going in - it's not a crapshoot. Team A knows it has to kick to start overtime, so if it's that concerned about not being able to stop Team B in OT, it better take some chances to stop them in regulation and get the ball back.

39 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I agree. The reason people complain is because some totally unrelated event determines who gets the ball first.

In the NBA, there's a jump ball. In the NHL, a faceoff. In MLB, the road team bats first. Since there's no way to truly mimic a faceoff in the NFL, there needs to be some predetermined criteria to determine who receives the opening kickoff in overtime.

Always the home/road team? This is simple, but it either magnifies homefield advantage or weakens it, neither of which is ideal.
Team that has the ball last in regulation: I like this one. If you score on the last play to tie the game, you'd normally kick off; why not extend this to overtime?
Total yards in regulation: This is too flawed, as total yards can be misleading. Ditto time of possession or any other in-game statistic.

66 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

That was a list of options for the team that would receive the kickoff in OT.

I think the main point, though, is that having a predetermined team to start OT, instead of an ad-hoc determination (i.e. the coin flip) is that teams can then incorporate it into the end-game strategy. As it stands now, with a minute left in the fourth quarter, the teams have no idea how overtime will start, which leaves the outcome to random chance, at least in perception.

Imagine that, due to whatever rule is implemented, it was known that the Chargers would receive the kickoff in OT. Would the Colts have still just run out the clock at the end of the fourth quarter? Or would they have at least taken a shot downfield, hoping for a miracle? And even if they didn't, no one would really be complaining about the "unfair" coin flip.

152 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Well, for one thing, if the last play of regulation is a tying score, then neither team has possession at the end of regulation. So you have to add an exception for that case, which will likely be "the team that scored on the final play is deemed to not have possession," reducing to the same thing I said.

The only time it's materially different is if the tying score comes some length of time before the end of the game and there have been an odd number of changes of possession between the tying score and the end of the game, in which case the team that ties the game gets the option. Personally, I like the incentive quality of "last team to score loses the option", in that knowing you'll be on defense to start OT gives a team with a weaker defense more of an incentive to go for the win. But either way makes it a non-random event.

23 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Firstly, there is no good reason that tie games shouldn't be allowed in the regular season. Nearly every other sports league in the world uses them. As Verhei and Riley point out it would make playoff tie-breaking much easier and I don't really understand why americans are so against the idea, I kind of like the idea that after 60 minutes the two sides are so closely matched that each deserves half a win. It seems weird to me that it is preferable to have a silly and unfair sudden death competition instead and I must say that some of the best games I have ever seen have been ties (the ashes match at Old Trafford in 2005 and that Liverpool- Manchester United 3-3 draw spring to mind)

As for the playoffs, where a tie is clearly not possible I think the most fair system would be to award the ball to the away team that has tied despite the home field advantage (isn't this supposed to be worth about 3 points anyway?).

33 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Perhaps it would change end-of-game strategy, and make ends of games less exciting. I'm not sure how many NFL coaches would go all-out to get a lead on their last drive if they could secure a tie by killing the clock.

But...there isn't a problem with the NFL's overtime format, except as far as TV is concerned. There are at least 4 or 5 minutes of extra broadcast time in which you might not be able to show advertisements. The college format does deal quite effectively with this "problem," but I like that the NFL system requires defense.

37 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

16 football games to a season (and that is actually crowding the physical limits of the players) versus 38 matches to the Premiership season - even a couple of draws would make a huge difference in the standings. Plus, 3/1/nil points for results would take forever to explain. And there's no relegation, though God knows the Lions deserve it.

But -genius - that's the solution for OT - penalties! Line up 5 different players from the 20 yard line and try to kick a field goal from a tee! Brilliant!

65 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Every major American sport (both professional and college) has some kind of overtime, and there is zero chance that any of them will ever entirely eliminate OT. Ties suck. They're anticlimactic, and no fan or player is ever satisfied with them. The trick is devising an overtime solution that is fair and meaningful.

I favor a system kind of analogous to MLB's overtime. Keep playing until someone is ahead after and even number of possession changes. I'd also throw in the wrinkle that a TD automatically ends the game. I'd define a "possession" as one team controlling the ball at the start of a play and the other team controlling it at the end of the same play (kicking always counts as a change of possession).

146 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

<pedantry>There was no tie in the Ashes series in 2005, though there was a draw at Old Trafford. Ties and draws are not the same thing...</pedantry>

(Parenthetically, the difference is that a tie is when the scores at the end of the game are the same, a draw is when no result is reached by the end of the game. Soccer tends to call ties, draws. Cricket is the only sport I am aware of that can finish as either a draw or a tie. A tie occurs when the scores are level, and both teams have completed all their innings. A draw occurs when time runs out, but one team (or both) has not completed both innings.)

25 Tiebreaker? (another method that will never be used)

Like they do for playoffs.

Somewhere in the NFL's tiebreaker system they value touchdowns more than other points. At least it used to be, not sure if its still there. Don't think it was ever used, but basically if it came down to net points and you were still tied, then it went to net touchdowns. Meaning two teams who were in every other way identical, but one scored three touchdowns more while the other scored seven field goals more, the one iwth the three touchdowns would win the tiebreaker.

So. If your game is tied at end of regulation 20-20, but team A scored two touchdowns and two field goals, but team B scored three touchdowns but missed an extra point, then team B would win.

And if that's still tied, then you can go to more tiebreakers, say net yards for example.

The key is that going down the stretch, both teams could know how they stood with regard to those tiebreakers, and know if they needed to actually be ahead or simply tied. Say in the above example, if it were 20-13, Team B leading and Team A scored, they'd have to go for two because they'd know they were down in TDs anyway. Or in a game tied in every other way, but close in yards, they could be trying to make up enough yards to put them over the top.

- I don't think this would (like most of these plans) ever be considered, nor do I think it is superior to some of the other proposals, just wanted to put it out there.

26 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

"To our knowledge, no other sport in no other league on the planet settles overtime periods by who scores first; they all go by who scores most."
Um, doesn't the NHL still have a sudden death period before the shootout?

28 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Very simple overtime format. As now, coin flip and all, except:
1) The touchback line is moved back by 5 yards, from the 20 to the 15. Maybe even 10 yards.
2) No penalty for a kickoff that lands in bounds and bounces out. (I'd like to see this rule in general. Coffin-corner kickoffs would be really interesting. OTOH, I'd like to see a penalty for punting directly out of bounds, too.)

My captcha is "women negative". Wow. Just, wow.

30 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

The league has gone out of their way in order to make the rules more friendly for offenses, so I don't really buy explanations like "the defense had every opportunity!" Well, yea, they did, but every year the league makes it even harder for defenses to prevent scoring.

79 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Solid point.

I heard the best possible argument against the "the defense had the opportunity to stop them" line of thought yesterday. Essentially, it boils down to, when they do the OT coin toss, the fans go apes--t when their team wins it. Why do they do that? Because they know that it's a major advantage to win the coin toss! Duh. Nobody wants to be on defense to start an OT. I guarantee you, even the Ravens would rather be on offense to start an OT.

118 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Fans went apes--t when their team won an overtime coin toss before 2004 when the kickoff line was moved back to the 30, and the team winning the toss won the overtime game only 52% of the time. Fans go apes--t if their HC decides to go for a fourth down even if the "right" call from a win probability viewpoint is kicking an FG. Fans go apes--t for any number of things that don't reflect an actual benefit, because many fans really don't know all that much about game strategy.

151 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I'll grant that the fans aren't always experts, but I think fans know more than you give them credit for. Is a +2% chance of winning in an otherwise even game something to cheer for? I think so.

Without knowing which specific 4th down situations you're talking about, it's impossible to know whether going for it or kicking is the right choice. But a lot of stat people are coming to the conclusion that coaches should go for it on 4th down more often than they do. Here's another test of the fan reaction perspective. (I read this somewhere a while back, but I can't remember where. Sorry, whoever came up with this idea.) Say your favorite team is playing defense. Your opponent reaches a 4th-2 at midfield. For a couple seconds, their coach appears to be waffling on whether to punt or go for it. In that instant, what are you hoping he does? You want him to punt! It's a no-brainer. That's your gut, and years of watching football, telling you that in situations like this, their team would actually be better off going for it. You want the ball ASAP, and you'd be willing to give up 40 yards of field position to end their drive. That's the fan perspective. Most likely, the coach orders a punt, because that's what he's always been taught to do since the 1970s, back when offenses weren't the point scoring machines that they are today.

154 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

No, the opposing coach punts when my gut is hoping he'll punt because risk-benefit decisions are asymmetric. If he punts, my team is virtually assured of getting the ball between the 0 and 20 yard line; if he goes for it, there is a chance of a better outcome (my team getting the ball at the 50) and a chance of a worse outcome (his team retaining the ball at the 50). I'm happy with the punt because I'm willing to forego the possibility of the best possible outcome in order to avoid the possibility of the worst possible outcome.

From his perspective, he's also willing to forego the chance of his best possible outcome (his team keeping the ball) in order to avoid the possibility of his worst possible outcome (my team getting the ball at midfield).

Both "gut feelings" are logical "minimax regret" decisions. Neither is necessarily the best decision based on expected value of the outcome.

156 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

OK, that seems reasonable. But now you're saying that the coaches decision making process is essentially the same as the average fan's. In my opinion (as an average clapping moron fan), the coach should have the knowledge, expertice and cajones required to make optimal decisions based on what will provide the most expected benefit.

For what it's worth, when my team reaches 4th-2 at the 50, in my gut, I want them to go for it. That's not because it's exciting, but because I think that the 40 yards of field position isn't worth giving up the chance at a scoring opportunity, and I expect them to convert that 4th down. But my team is the Colts. If it was the Lions, my experiences might shape my reactions differently.

31 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

"To our knowledge, no other sport in no other league on the planet settles overtime periods by who scores first; they all go by who scores most." NHL playoff OT is sudden death. For that matter regular season OT is sudden death. Just that in the playoffs they keep going with more OT periods instead of a shootout.

52 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Yep. NHL regular season overtime is 5 minutes, then a shootout. Playoff overtimes have sometimes gone longer than a regulation game, with the longest game on record being almost 3 full games in length (116+ minutes of OT); there have been two games in the last decade to go into the 5th extra period.

For regular season football, a tie is fine. For postseason football... while playing 3+extra quarters is grueling, being tired for your next game is part of the penalty for not being good enough to beat your opponent (or the advantage of better seeding, to draw weaker opponents) cleanly.

I'd be fine with "Win by 4", "First to (regulation score +6)", or anything that enhances the drama over 'march to opponent's 30, kick'.

Could be worse, at least you can't win by a rouge :-)

56 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I'm not saying that you can't kick into the corner, just that the ball must land in bounds before going out. Say, tack 15 yards onto the field position for a ball directly out of bounds. Thus:

1) Kickoff or punt lands out of bounds: receving team takes possession at the spot the ball went out plus 15 yards (10 yards in overtime). If it goes out at the 5, it's just like a touchback. (The penalty might be 5 yards too high.)

2) Kickoff or punt bounces out of bounds (landing in bounds first): receiving team takes possession at the spot the ball went out of bounds (as now).

3) Touchback: receiving team takes possession at the 20, or 15 in overtime.

This time, one of my captchas is "Captian"?!?

41 "NHL meets the NFL on NBC!"

Isn't this option also known as "Scramble for the Ball"?

Anyway, I vote for a 10-minute non-sudden death OT or for bringing back the regular-season tie.

50 You want a scramble for the ball option?

Coin Toss, winner gets to pick which goal to defend.

Each team sends 11 men out,they line up in their own end zone.

An official places the ball at the 50, dead center. Blows his whistle and runs to the sideline.

Whoever gets the ball first, gets it and can advance it.

53 Re: "NHL meets the NFL on NBC!"

Actually, it's more like the first half of the "Breakthrough and Conquer" event from American Gladiators. Which, come to think of it, isn't such a bad idea. We could all use a little more Gemini in our lives.

The scramble was a bit different. They'd put the ball on the 50, and have two players race to it from the 30. Whoever recovers first essentially wins the coin toss. They raced from the same 30, but I think it could be more fun if they came from opposing sides. Either way, I'd be a big fan of this instead of the coin toss.

54 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

team with the fewest total number of penalties committed gets the choice of kick or receive. unsportsmanlike conducts count 3x. play as per normal after that.

55 First time to score six.

How about making the overtime rule be the first team to score six points wins? Either kick two field goals or get in the end zone. This eliminates what everyone hates about OT: the quick 40-yard FG for the win. A team that takes the first possession and scores a TD deserves it more.

Plus, some strategy comes into play. The first team kicks a field goal and maybe the second team goes all out for the TD and the win.

57 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Or, since it comes down to kicking almost all the time any way, make it more like the high jump/pole vault rules have the teams take turns kicking field goals (same direction) backing up 5 yards until someone exceeds the other one's miss.

This was for playoffs - during the regular season, let them tie.

59 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I must be one of seven people left in the (American) football-playing world that sees nothing wrong with the current overtime system.

However, two options are acceptable to me.

1) Fourth quarter can't end in a tie. Teams keep playing. If a team scores a late touchdown to pull within a point, they can go for the win, or turn the game over to the defense. The rest of the game plays in untimed, sudden-death fashion.

2) The ball in overtime will be placed at a teams' 20 yard line. The winner of the coin flip will decide whether to go on offense and defense. In essence, it's the same as if the opening kickoff went for a touchback. If your defense gives up the 50 or so yards needed for a field goal attempt, you lose -- deservedly so.

68 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I am one of those seven as well; the current system doesn't need changing.

I don't like your first suggestion all that much, though it's not bad. I like the idea that the game ends with 0:00 on the clock in the fourth quarter, and then the game sort of resets.

I do like the second in theory, but I think moving the kickoff to the 40-yard-line is better. It would result in a near-guaranteed touchback, which is good, but would also at least require your special teams to execute. If your kickoff team sucks, you should at least be penalized a little bit.

132 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I am also one of those seven. That makes three of us here, leaving four more spots open.

If you lose the toss . . . play some defense. It's not like the Colts didn't have a chance to stop the Chargers. They had the Chargers in third and long at least two times in OT. On one of those third downs, Darren Sproles caught a short pass well short of the first down. At least two defenders had a chance to stop him short of the marker, but failed to do so. The Colts also self-destructed with three penalties that gave the Chargers first downs. At least one of those penalties was on third down. If the Colts had played some defense, they would have gotten the ball back. They didn't. Sorry. See you next season.

62 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

SIMPLE SOLUTION - Home Team can elect to receive or side of field.
1) Inherently fair during the regular season because all teams have 8 home games.
2) Makes late regular season games more valuable, because home field in the playoffs is more valuable.
3) Reduces game length, because if the visiting team scores a tying TD, they might be more inclined to try for 2 because they KNOW they aren't getting the ball.
4) Makes home stadiums happier as their teams will win more than 50% of OT games (if the stat above is true).

Seems like a win-win to me. Eliminates luck without sacrificing fairness (on a large scale).

64 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Add an extra football!

Seriously - k/o from the 40 or no field goals would work too. I actually thought the coin flip receiver only won like 52%, not 60%...

70 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I like the first to four solution. That way the winning team has to score a touchdown or two field goals. Or two safeties. Now that would be a great way to win a OT game.

73 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

A lot of these ideas being issued are either completely unrealistic, overly complicated, or just as arbitrary as a coin toss. However, there are 4 proposals that I believe stand out as the most palatable solutions.

The most likely change is to just move the kickoff back to the 35 for OT. It's an easy change for the NFL to make, and it certainly would help to level the playing field, but it doesn't entirely solve the problem. From actual game data, we know that any time an offense has 1st and 10 on their 15 yard line or better, they are the favorites to score next. Letting the kicking team have easy touchbacks is no doubt helpful, but it still leaves the offense as the favorite.

"First to 6" is a solid idea. It's simple, easy to understand, should offer more excitement than the current format, and all while evening the odds between the kicking and receiving teams. Probably the 2nd most likely option.

Playing another 15 minutes works. Sort of. Most of the time, the situation will resolve itself if the teams are given another quarter of play. In the regular season, if it's still tied after 1 quarter, the game would go down as a tie. In the playoffs is where we'd have a bit of a problem. Though most postseasons would go off without a hitch, 2 and 3 quarters of OT would be needed occasionally. Anything longer than 3 OTs would be extremely rare, but I suppose the possibility is there. Some may say 7+ quarters of football is too much, even if it happens less than once a decade.

Personally, I favor the bidding method, where each coach is offered the ball closer and closer to their goal line, until one backs down. It lets the teams decide for themselves who gets the ball and where, and assuming the coaches made optimal decisions, the team starting with the ball should win exactly as often as they lose. The quicker version of this method would involve both coaches submitting one bid on paper, stating where they would be willing to take the ball. Whoever offers to take it closer to his own endzone is awarded the ball at that spot. Unfortunately, I think this idea has very little chance of being considered.


Right on: 2 options are viable, due to simplicity and fairness. Moving up the kick-off to get back towards a 50-50 split on who wins in OT (the kicker or receiver). 35 or 40, I don't care. Or play to 6 points, which I rather like. Especially in the regular season: if nobody gets 6 by 1 OT, it's a tie. The problem with no kickers is that in a good defensive match-up (TENN-BAL), the game could conceivably go on forever.

I think the bidding system is a fun idea, but will never happen in a million years. Moving up the kick-off is just so obvious and simple, it should be hard to beat.

84 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I want to see more attention paid to revamping the overtime rules for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition.

Seriously, though. Allowing ties at the end of 4 quarters in regular season games is a good idea. It eliminates the worry of players getting too beat up in overtime periods.

Note to McNabb: no, this wouldn't work in the playoffs, but it does open up options for playoff OTs that would otherwise be unfavorable. It's one thing to overwork players in the regular season, but all bets are off in the playoffs.

That said, I really do like the Splitting the Overtime Pizza option by MDS best. First to 4 (or 6 or 8!) is simple and elegant too. I actually like first to 8. Score a TD, go for two.

But if the current system gives the winner of the coin toss a 60% chance of winning, where the two teams have otherwise played pretty evenly for four quarters, it's definitely not a fair system.

85 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I don't have a major problem with the current format, though I admit if kicker keep getting better it will start to be one. I'd favor either:

1) Allow ties in the regular season. Possible downside: coaches tend to be conservative and would play for a tie.

2) Play for a fixed length of time, say 10 minutes.

3) Eliminate the kickoff to start overtime and have the offense start at the X yard line. Pick X to make a coach think really hard. Would a team take the ball if they knew they were going to start on their own 20? Yea. 15? Probably, but not certain. 10? I wouldn't. 5? No way.

86 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I think the overtime advantage is bigger than people realize. It gives the team that wins the coin toss a 20% advantage over the coin toss loser. That seems very large to me. Yes your winning percentage changes *only* 10%, but teams that win the coin toss will win 20% more games than losers. Doesn't anyone else think that is very unfair.

91 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Unless it's a trick coin, and the team calling the flip knows this, there's nothing unfair about it.

It's not like OT rules are suddenly sprung on coaches after regulation. They all know what's going to happen if the game ends up tied. When a coach pulls to within one point late in the fourth quarter and kicks the EP, he's making the conscious decision to leave his fate up to the flip of a coin. When a coach decides to run into the line lf scrimmage, or have the QB kneel at the end of a tied game, he's making the conscious decision to leave his fate up to the flip of a coin. If said coach has a problem with it, he should try harder to win in the first 60 minutes.

111 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Then why not just have the coin flip decide the winner of a tied game? That'd be completely fair right? And as long as both teams knew that before the game started nobody would have any right to complain. Problem solved!

On the other hand, if your definition (like most reasonable people) of "fair" in this context is that the outcome of the game should be decided by events related to the skill of the players, then that suggestion is ridiculous. And so is the idea that one team should get an advantage from something as random and unrelated to football skills as a coin flip.

148 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Yes, a coin flip to decide the game would be fair. Try harder to win in regulation if you don't want the outcome to be decided by a coin. We can take this as far forward or backwards as you'd like. We can have a referee hold one or two fingers behind his back if you'd like. Have Simon Cowell decide who is the better team.

The point is that the closest way to keep overtime consistent with regulation time is the current way. Offense, Defense, and Special Teams are all involved, as they should be. The game starts with a coin flip, and certain things like first possession and wind go to a team based on the coin flip.

Again, the only way to improve overtime and keep the game the same is to just ignore the final gun if the game ends in a tie, and next score wins.

97 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Fair point, but I don't think it's the concept of having overtime rules that bothers people; it's the choice of rules. Yes, the rules are known ahead of time, which is why no one is advocating that strenuously that anyone got screwed over.

If we go by the "they knew the rules ahead of time" line of thought, any systemn is fair. Why not just say that the coin toss itself determines the winner? Play for 60 minutes, and if it's a tie, we flip a coin. Is that fair? Yes, it's completely fair. But is that really a satisfactory outcome?

What we have now is a lesser version of that situation. No, the coin toss doesn't determine the winner, but it does heavily influence the outcome of an otherwise toss-up game.

I'd be perfectly fine with keeping the OT rules exactly the same, but having the first possession decided by SOME sort of football-related skill. 100-yard dash, bench press, scramble for the ball... whatever; just not blind luck.

107 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I could be moved by that...maybe most total yardage? most time-of-possession? most first downs?

The point of the "we knew the rules beforehand", and I think it's very relevant, is that in many cases overtime is easily avoided. Coaches would rather take the 50/50 shot in overtime than try for a two point conversion....or risk a turnover by passing deep in the closing minute of a close game. I have no problem with a team losing in overtime never getting the ball after it's coach made a conscious decision to play for overtime.

And why is it important things be fair? Is it fair that a team loses a key player to injury in the first quarter and has to play the rest of the game without him? Is it fair that a team can be screwed out of a playoff spot because another team in another city is resting all its starters? Is it fair when the officials blow an obvious call? Is it fair that some team is stuck with Matt Millen as General Manager? How far do we care to pursue this concept of fairness? Fairness is over-rated. And almost impossible to achieve.

110 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

"And why is it important things be fair?"
"Fairness is over-rated. And almost impossible to achieve."

I understand the point that fairness is not always possible. It should always be considered desirable though. If fans begin to think that the rules favor one team over another, they stop caring as much about the games. That hurts the fans' enjoyment and the leagues income, so no one wins.

"Is it fair that a team loses a key player to injury in the first quarter and has to play the rest of the game without him?"

Yeah, that's fair. It sucks, but it's fair. Unless the injury was caused on a dirty play, in which case I favor the old baseball tradition of letting the players police themselves.

"Is it fair that a team can be screwed out of a playoff spot because another team in another city is resting all its starters?"

Perhaps not entirely fair. However, any team in this situation can probably point to a half dozen games they lost earlier in the year to put themselves in that position, diminishing their case somewhat. The Browns shouldn't have to depend on the Colts to get them into the playoffs; the Browns should depend on the Browns to get themselves into the playoffs.

"Is it fair when the officials blow an obvious call?"

I'm leaning towards yes on this one, so long as it was a truly blown call, and not a case of favoritism. Sucks though.

"Is it fair that some team is stuck with Matt Millen as General Manager?"

Absolutely yes. That's no one's fault but their own.

113 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

Yes injuries are fair, because they're a result of the game. Injuries happen in the normal course of a football game. It sucks, but it's unavoidable. A coin flip has nothing to do with the normal course of a football game.

No, it's not fair that one team can directly decide the fate of another with not consequence to their own team. But there is also nothing you can do about it. There are no reasonable alternatives. There are reasonable alternatives to a coin flip making one team 20% more likely to win.

Yes blown calls are (marginally) fair, because refs can not possibly be held to a standard where they can never make a bad call. Although I'd absolutely be in favor of allowing all referee decision to be reviewable under the current 2/3 challenge instant replay system.

It may be impossible to achieve absolute fairness, but that doesn't make the goal of absolute fairness any less desirable.

147 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I don't know where this 60% number comes from. Is it even true? I thought it was closer to 53%...and that number included OT games won by the coin flip winner on their second, third, and subsequent possessions. I'd be curious to know how many OT games end on a first possession field goal.

Also, I'm not a statistician, but aren't we working with a very small sample size, even if we consider ever NFL overtime game over the last 10 years, to draw such conclusions? If I placed a coin on my thumb heads-up 100 times, and it came up heads 60 times, could I conclude that putting the coin heads-up is an advantage in a coin flip?

I'm against any means of settling a game that isn't an extension of the actual game. I love hockey, hate the shootout. Hate college FB overtime. To me, then, the best solution is just continue the game after the fourth quarter until somebody scores. That way there's no coin flip to get upset about. Give each team one timeout and have at it. We'll see some interesting clock management at the end of games for sure.

Oh well, same debate every year, and it never amounts to anything. Good to see the passion and the thinking outside the box, though.

155 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

The problem I have with just continuing the 4th quarter, is that could potentially remove a large portion of the drama. Here's my thought process. I agree that the rules of the game should be mimicked as closely as possible. But I also don't want to create a situation where there's no real incentive for the team with the ball at the end of a tie game to score. I'd also like to keep as much of the pressure of sudden death overtime as possible. I don't have a problem with a team winning by a FG, but I hate the idea that one team have a 50% better chance of winning by a completely random event unrelated to the game of football. If your defense gives up a TD, you deserve to lose (probably the most arbitrary portion of this thought process). So the solution to all of these issues is fairly simple:

The game ends with either a TD or one team has more points after an even number of possession changes (defined as one team having possession at the start of a play and the other team having possession at the end of the same play; kickoffs and punts always count as a change of possession).

All 6 units (Off/Def/STs for both teams) are used. There's still an element of sudden death involved. It still behooves you to try to win in regulation. The rules of the game aren't changed. Strategy isn't even changed all the much from the end of regulation (if you know there's only 3 minutes left in regulation and you kick a FG to go ahead by 3, you know there's a chance the other team wins with a TD). Winning the coin flip still has a bit of an advantage (because you could end the game on an odd number of possessions with a TD), but all 6 units still have an equal opportunity to impact the outcome of the game (which is my biggest problem with the current system), unless you give up a TD.

163 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

I've been enjoying reading all the suggestions in the comments here, but I thought I'd chime in to say that I particularly like this one. It sounds football-y, perhaps it's just the way it's written, but it has a certain appeal since you either win by finding the end zone first, or by kicking a field goal and preventing the other team from doing the same.

89 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

The only OT scenario that seems unsatisfying is

  • win the toss,
  • get a first down or two, and
  • kick a cheap field goal.

    My problem with First to 4 is that a couple of recent OT games have ended on a safety, which is a decisive result for the winners' defense (or against the loser's offense, if the game ended on a penalty instead of a tackle). It's a shame to preclude that type of an ending.

    I know TMQ wants to take the foot out of football, but don't ban punts. Just ban FGs in OT, and remove the only kickoff by giving the receiving team the ball on their 20 as if that kickoff had resulted in a touchback. That way, the game ends on the first play that the ball ends up in an end zone.

  • 93 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    I can't believe that a column called SCRAMBLE FOR THE BALL didn't propose starting overtime with an actual XFL-style scramble for the ball.

    Instead of whatever Chargers DB was responsible for blowing the coverage of Wayne in the middle of the third quarter, I'd give the Keep Choppin' Wood award to the two Falcons linebackers who bit on a play fake on 3rd-and-16 just before the two-minute warning, when Atlanta's entire season came down to preventing the Cardinals from getting a first down.

    94 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    I haven't read through the comments, so maybe this has already been discussed or destroyed. In the post-season, I'd like to see the visiting team get the ball first with the home team having one guaranteed possession. This eliminates the coin flip and adds some interesting strategy (does the visitor kick a field goal knowing they could lose on a TD?). It gives an advantage to the home team, who will know what they need to do to win, but in the post-season home-field advantage is earned so I think that's OK. And if neither team scores on their first possession, it's the visitor's advantage.

    Not sure what to do about the superbowl... maybe base it off of the winner of MLB's all-star game.

    105 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    Assess a 15 yard penalty on the receiving team after the kick, unless they score or lose the ball. The advantage of receiving the kick goes away. The OT still starts with a returned kickoff and ends with a score.

    Call it the "overtime yardage assessment" to avoid saying "penalty".

    108 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    The game and strategy in overtime should be as exact as possible to the game and strategy during regular time. This is the problem with soccer. They play soccer for 105 minutes and then do their silly little beer pong or penalty kicks or whatever it is that decides the game.

    Move the kickoff to the 40 is the easiest, simplest and best solution. It's easy to understand and doesn't make an exhausted defense have to stop a 20 yard drive in order to win the game.

    Playing for an entire overtime period is even better. That way it is still football with the goal of scoring touchdowns, not just a FG, and a team has an opportunity to overcome a series of terrible calls a la Colts-Chargers.

    If its still tied in the playoffs, keep going. One of the most thrilling football games I ever watched was a USFL playoff game that just kept going and going.

    114 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    "Two Posessions OT" Rules:

    1. Coin flip to decide who kicks/recieves;
    2. The team that has control of the ball, has a possession; 2.1 Exception, onside kick: if the kicking team is successful on a onside kick, the recieving team loses its possession.
    3. Wins the game the team that has more points after both teams having a possession;
    4. If the game is still tied, it's awarded both teams two new possessions; 4.1 The winner is decided exactly as said at "rule 3";
    5. If the tie remains after two quarters of playing, the recieving team inthe 1st quarter kicks off at the beginning of the 3rd.
    6. If the tie remains after four quarters of playing, the OT goes back to "rule 1".

    End of story.

    119 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    Since you're talking about "quarters", I presume you still have a game clock. So what if the teams trade scores on possessions until the team getting the first possession scores as time expires in the second quarter. Is the other team guaranteed an "untimed" possession? And if so, then shouldn't the first team's final possession have also been "untimed", so they could move down the field without worrying about the clock?

    Even a situation where you only guarantee a single possession to both teams can run into an "unfair" situation - if the receiving team executes a much-beloved-of-TMQ 11-minute drive, then the other team has only four minutes on their "guaranteed" possession. And there will still be cries of "unfair".

    Any OT rules set with guaranteed possessions has to basically get rid of the game clock. Guaranteed possessions are football's equivalent of innings. And innings are fine - but they're not football.

    129 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    Well pointed. Very hard to "fight" against this objections, but I think I can. Let me try...

    The problem can be simply solved changing rule #5 to be as follows: "Over time will be played in times (quarters) of 15 minutes. 5.1 At the end of every quarter, if a team had more possession than the other, another quarter will begin exactly where the other has stopped, the same way it happens on regular games between first and second quarters, and third and forth quarters."

    But I promise I will think better. The idea still have problems...

    116 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Getting Over Overtime

    I just figured out why Easterbrook's picture seems so old. I think he actually died in 2002, and has been replaced by a computer which automatically generates his column every week. I mean, honestly, would it be that hard to program a machine to churn out the crap that man writes?

    I'll call it the Easterbrook Idiocy-Generating Smugness Unit 4000 (EIGSU-4000).

    121 Re: Each team gets a possession

    Note: I am generally not in favor of the "each team gets a possession" proposals, as I think sudden death adds an exciting element to overtime.

    That being said, rather than argue semantics of what constitutes a possession, what with all the onside kick and double turnover plays, a better description of the "each team gets a possession" rule would be this: OT ends when a team (a) has the lead and (b) is about to line up for a scrimmage play with possession of the ball.

    Under that rule:
    - a safety ends the game immediately, no matter what;
    - a successful onside kick to open OT does not end the game, but one following a score in OT does;
    - any time a defender intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble when his team has the lead, he would be the biggest moron in history if he did not just take a knee.

    I could support this proposal, though not with a ton of enthusiasm, as I like sudden death.

    As you can tell from my previous posts, my preferred solutions are, in order:
    1. move opening kickoff of OT to the 40-yard-line (or the 35);
    2. OT ends when a team has the lead and the ball;
    3. some other, predetermined factor decides who kicks off to open OT.

    123 Re: Each team gets a possession

    Actually, a safety would force the (now) trailing team to attempt on onside kick to prevent the opposition obtaining the ball with the lead, so the safety does not "end the game immediately".