NFL’s overtime needs to be reevaluated yet again
Imagine a sport where your team has tied the score with only seconds on the clock, forcing overtime, only to have their prospects of a win significantly dashed by the harsh probability of a two-sided coin.
This was the nature of the National Football League a couple years ago, before the league decided to review its overtime policy.
The staggering part of the situation is that the new and improved rules — while not only confusing and convoluted — pose exactly the same problem, just slightly less severe.
Before last year, when a game went into overtime there would be a coin toss.
Whoever won the coin toss would elect whether or not they wanted to receive or kick the ball.
They would undoubtedly choose to receive. They would then have the opportunity to march down the gridiron and score either by field goal or touchdown. If either happened, the game would be over.
Now with the new rules, there is still a coin toss and the winner still elects to receive or kick. But now merely scoring a field goal does not constitute an automatic win and gives the other team a shot on offense.
However, if you manage to score a touchdown on your first drive, the game is over.
In addition, after 15 minutes the game is considered a tie if no winner emerges.
On Sept. 21 the Denver Broncos took on the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. Despite trailing the entire game, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning led his team back with 20 seconds on the clock to force overtime; and then he watched. The Seahawks won the coin toss, marched down the field and scored a touchdown on their first drive. It effectively ended the game and put a very anti-climactic end to Manning’s day, as he did not touch the ball in the overtime frame.
This sudden death, chance-driven system ends games that have no business ending.
It leaves viewers almost dumbfounded that it could be over that quickly.
Nonetheless, it is better than the old system, where a team might only have to travel 10 or 20 yards, kick a field goal and emerge victorious.
The new system creates this massive disconnect between how strong of a play field goals and touchdowns are. One constitutes giving the other team a shot at the win, while the other is enough to end the contest right there.
In overtime, I guess the NFL treats a touchdown like a knockout punch to the head, from which there is just no getting up, while a field goal is merely considered a jab.
Of course a team should get the chance to continue fighting.
This continues to make the NFL the only sport where there is a chance that a team’s offence has little to no opportunity of making any impact on the game in overtime.
Some argue that football is unique because offence and defence are completely separate, and because of this you can’t compare its overtime rules to other popular North American sports.
However, America has another significantly popular pastime played on a diamond that splits offence and defence up, and they haven’t seemed to find a problem finding a way for both teams to get a shot.
To put things in perspective, this is like a baseball team scoring in the top half of the 10th inning and winning, without the other team getting a chance to bat.
The rules of overtime are interesting, to say the least. However, the arbitrary nature of the coin toss is perhaps the most frustrating part of the entire saga.
If the NFL were to say that the home team gets the ball first in overtime, it might add a bit more stability.
After analyzing the overtime dilemma, the logical conclusion would be to ask the NFL to review their overtime rules. Unfortunately, they already have, and this is what they have come up with.