After all the buzz, controversy and criticism flowing about the inequity of the NFL’s overtime system in the aftermath of the classic Bills-Chiefs shootout during the AFC divisional playoffs, the dust is settling. When NFL owners gather Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida, for league meetings, they will be greeted by just two rules proposals that address overtime. Just two.
There was much bluster and in recent weeks, seemingly endless possibilities on the table. Yet only two proposals from teams – the Colts and Eagles combined on one measure, the Titans have advanced another – passed muster through the vetting of the competition committee and both are anchored on familiar ground.
This is about tweaking, not a radical overhaul, of the current overtime system married to sudden death. And with 24 votes needed to pass any measure, don’t hold your breath that a new OT rule is imminent.
The Colts-Eagles proposal allows both teams to have an overtime possession; the Titans proposal would allow both teams a possession unless a team executes a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown on its first possession.
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The competition committee didn’t endorse either of the proposals, but Rich McKay clearly recognizes sentiments stirred since Kansas City outlasted Buffalo, 42-36, in January. While the chances of winning in overtime are about 50-50 during the regular season, the team that won the coin toss won 10 of 12 postseason games that went to overtime – with seven of the victories achieved by teams that won the toss and scored on the first possession.
That’s your best argument for a change. Or, as McKay put, “there’s a lot of momentum” for a new OT rule – at least for the postseason.
Surprisingly, the Bills are not one of the teams submitting a formal proposal. During the NFL combine in early March, Bills GM Brandon Beane indicated that the team was poised to push for a rule that would ensure a then-undetermined amount of time in overtime during postseason games, which presumably would have been enough to allow both teams a possession.
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Yet the idea of adding, say, an eight-minute quarter (regular-season ties aren’t determined until a 10-minute overtime has been completed) fell by the wayside. Ensuring clock time would have made many games longer and perhaps fueled objections from the NFL Players Association on health and safety grounds.
The purist in me is encouraged that the NFL didn’t go bananas (I mean, for that, look at the blockbuster trades and mega contracts that have made news recently) in trying to correct an overtime system that will never be completely equitable. In 2010, the NFL mandated that teams couldn’t win in OT on a first-possession field goal. Now, proposes of the rule change see first-possession touchdowns as a problem.
During the combine, the competition committee fielded at least four proposals pertaining to overtime, according to a committee member. That they are headed into the league meetings with two proposals that don’t blow up the “sudden death” principle of overtime is a good thing.
Thankfully, there’s no steam for an overtime system that would have resembled the wacky college game, which gives teams OT possessions at the plus-25 yard line. And the Ravens never considered reintroducing the “spot-and-choose” concept they proposed last year, which drew all of three votes.
The NFL – the most popular and most valuable sports entity in the nation – is sticking with basics that encourage defense and special teams play to go with all that offense.
“The committee, having lived in this overtime world for a long time … one thing we’ve tried to do is make sure that overtime is designed to be traditional football,” McKay said. “That means we’re going to have special teams, we’re going to have field position, we’re going to have the ability to play defense. All of those things are elements. We’ve never tried, as a committee at least, to get ourselves into any type of gimmick. We’ve tried to play traditional football.”
Yes, that tradition includes the coin toss. Neither of the proposals on the docket would scrap the toss, which many consider a game-swinging factor at its worst.
Still, with a minor tweak, perhaps the NFL will move a step closer to competitive balance when sudden death looms in overtime.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL overtime rule may see tweaks, but don’t expect a radical overhaul