On Tuesday, the NFL owners voted to alter the rules of overtime during postseason play. Before, like during the regular season, it was a sudden death overtime, meaning the first team to score, whether it be by touchdown, field goal, or even a safety, wins. The new rule gives the team that loses the coin toss a possession if the team that wins the coin toss scores a field goal on the opening possession.
Basically, if the team with the ball first makes a field goal on that first possession, the other team will have an opportunity to match it, somewhat like the college overtime setup. But if that first team drives down and scores a touchdown, the game ends, just like before. And if that team doesn't score at all, then last year's overtime rules would apply. Also, if that first team gets a field goal and then the opposing team matches that field goal, then last year's rules would start applying. One other scenario could come, where the first team scores a field goal and the other team, with their opportunity to match it scores a touchdown, then the game would end with the second team winning.
I can't say I like it. First of all, I'm not a fan of rules being changed strictly for playoff games. If you're going to change a rule, be consistent with it all year long. The games that got you to the playoffs are just as important as an overall whole as one playoff game.*
*Let's say this upcoming season, in a dream world, the Chiefs are 9-6 going into their final game of the season and need a victory to secure a playoff spot. For the Chiefs, the game itself is virtually a playoff game. Now let's say the game goes to OT and the Chiefs lose because they lose the toss and the other team gets a field goal on the opening possession. Then a week later, with the Chiefs left out of the playoffs, there's a playoff game that involves a team scoring a field goal on the opening possession, and the opposing team having the opportunity still to win the game. There'd be some unhappy fans in KC, I'd say.
Secondly, I think this new aspect of overtime will take away from the essence of sudden death. I mean, there's a reason it's called sudden death. You have sixty minutes to win a football game. If you're someone who thinks your team got hosed on a first possession overtime loss, maybe you should look further to the original sixty minutes of football for an explanation as to why you lost the game. Fairness is out of the question, as it should be. It's sudden death.
Also, I'm a believer in the thought that if your team deserves to win, then you can depend on your defense to make a stop at the start of overtime. There's eleven guys on EACH side of the football, they're all paid pretty good money to do their job. Let's let them do it.
If we don't believe a field goal on the first possession of OT should win the football game, then maybe we should re-evaluate what a field goal is worth. Or maybe we should just do away with field goals altogether.
Actually, I'm surprised the NFL hasn't already proposed something like this. Think about it. Every time a team had a fourth down inside their opponents' 30-yard line, they'd go for it. No more running kickers (Lin Elliot) out of town for missing kicks at the end of games. I think we'd find an even more entertaining sport with more touchdowns and less punting. And let's face it, this rule change the owners have passed goes along the same lines as my idea. More football, more scoring, etc.
I do like that the owners haven't gone to the college format for OT. In college, each team gets the ball on their opponents' 25-yard line, alternating like extra innings in baseball until a winner is decided. The problem with the college format's transistion to the NFL is the statistical aspect of it. Individual and team stats in overtime games would get completely out of wack. Season and career records would fall easier, and they're already falling at an alarming rate because of the abundance of pro-offensive rule changes the NFL has passed in the last decade or so.*
*Illegal contact after five yards is the most impactful one of these rules. Receivers nowadays can roam virtually free in the secondary, and it's led to ridiculous passing statistics for the Mannings and Bradys of the league.
I do know that I can deal with this rule change. It's the NFL, and I don't think this is going to do any severe damage. But if we're altering the rules as to how we eventually find a Super Bowl champion, are we saying every champion prior to the rule change should have an asterisk next to their name in the history books? There's no debating the absolute possibility that this change, if applied to past seasons, could have resulted in different teams participating in the big game, possibly resulting in a different champion. I don't want to go down that road, either.
It is worth noting that the owners are considering making the rule apply to the regular season games as well, in which case I would be more satisfied with it. Still, why try to fix what's not broken?