November 10, 2003

Pro Football Overtime: has officially outstayed its welcome.

While it may beat the alternative, cries to change the way OT is played in the NFL are getting louder. Though hardly a new issue, this recent article in the New York Times (registration and first born son required) speaks to the righteous fury of every angry fan who's had to watch their team lose in OT without ever having a chance to field the offense. The NYT is hardly alone in its indignation and I can't help but feel the same way.

While it could reasonably be argued that the excitement and intensity of an NFL OT is tough to beat, the real bottom line has likely more to do with network scheduling than drama; not quite what I would consider the prime consideration of an athletic competition. Call me old fashioned.
And what about issues of fairness? When the flip of a coin has a 99.9% mathematical certainty of affecting the ultimate outcome of OT, the game becomes a lot more luck and a lot less skill.

Unsurprisingly, the inertia bound NFL says "Meh" to the whole issue, so proponents of OT reform will just have to wait until a Superbowl or Conference Playoff is decided by one lucky return and one lucky field goal to see the League shamed into improving the system.

Kvetching about the sad state of NFL OT has become an almost yearly event. Maybe it's time to think outside the box?

posted by forksclovetofu to football at 10:31 AM - 26 comments

All those paragraph breaks are distracting. Perhaps a [more inside...] would have been better for the bulk of the post. But good material nonetheless. I'm amazed that NFL OT has continued to this day in its current form. They might as well flip a coin and declare that team the winner on the spot. It boggles my mind. I suspect it won't be changed until the NFL starts losing money because of it.

posted by Succa at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2003

A (more inside) with the rest of the post would be beneficial, but other than that, it's a great post. Great links. The system does suck. I'm not sure that I prefer the college system too much more, but it's at least fairer than the NFL's got. Maybe part of the thinking is, hey, go for 2 and win the game or go for the extra point and have a 50-50 chance of winning. It'd be cooler if more teams would go for it, like the Texans did earlier this year, whoever it was.

posted by Ufez Jones at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2003

Good post and an always welcome discussion topic. I can never figure out why the NFL chooses this method of overtime. I believe it is the worst of all possible alternatives. It's not good for coaches, players, or fans, who get gypped out of at least one meaningful drive per game. I thought I heard that at the owner's meeting about two weeks ago, it was reported that changing the OT format was a completely dead issue, that there was currently no momentum behind a change. I hope that's wrong. Zebras and coins shouldn't determine winners.

posted by vito90 at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2003

I hate the current system, but the NFL is too stubborn to change it, so I'd rather games end in a tie. I didn't read through all of the links (there are a lot!), but the fix seems so easy: give each team a chance at the ball. 1. Game ends in a tie. 2. Coin flip. Winner will probably elect to kick (like college). 3. Game continues like the first four quarters, but each team is guaranteed a chance at the ball. Team A either stops Team B and receives a punt, or Team B scores and then kicks off to Team A. It seems simple to me. It wouldn't change the game much, and it wouldn't result in crazy 84-77 college OT scores.

posted by dusted at 12:46 PM on November 10, 2003

I think it surely is something worth discussing. I don't mind sudden death in hockey or soccer since possession changes are frequent and you almost never see a team win a faceoff and charge down the ice and score (though Brian Skrudland did it against the Flames in the Stanley Cup finals in '86, curse him). as for the post effort - I'd drop the NYT registration slam/microeditorializing IMHO since it doesn't add anything to the post. I think people know by now that if the content is at the NYT it will require a registration and a polite reminder can be useful but I'll say that I am perfectly happy having registered there at one time years ago and they haven't yet come asking for dibs on any male children. Otherwise, a good effort collecting and sharing relevant material

posted by gspm at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2003

1. Games end in a tie. 2. Both teams have a chance to score. You start on your own 20. 3a. If both teams fail to score, both teams lose. 3b. If one team scores and the other doesn't, the team who scores, wins. This should make for some extra excitement and for some very long field goals. I like it when teams 'go for it' and take a chance against the odds. Makes for more exciting football for me.

posted by jasonspaceman at 01:17 PM on November 10, 2003

If both teams fail to score, both teams lose. brilliant! i'd finally have something to pray for (besides deadly accruate lightning) when the cowboys play the broncos.

posted by danostuporstar at 03:00 PM on November 10, 2003

I like the proposal that keeps the current OT format, but requires that the winner score at least 6 points. It eliminates the win the flip, drive for a FG and win abomination. And it's still Football.

posted by offsides at 05:29 PM on November 10, 2003

What I would love--even though it would never ever happen--would to have dueling field goals, starting at the 25, and moved back 5 yards until somebody misses and the other team makes. Like free kicks in soccer. I love the college overtime, but I wish they'd reserve it for the postseason (such as it is in college) and let some ties happen.

posted by Justin Slotman at 05:47 PM on November 10, 2003

Explain to me what's wrong with a draw?

posted by salmacis at 06:11 PM on November 10, 2003

I would just have the home team kick off, and then play as normal; the game would end with the first score to take the lead after both teams have had the ball. The home team would kick off because, if the visitor scores on its possession, fans get to see one last drive to either win or tie by the home team. And if the visiting team gets the ball first, commits a turnover which is returned for a score, the game would end right then because the home team will have taken the lead after each team has had possession. Easy!

posted by Jaquandor at 07:53 PM on November 10, 2003

Thanks for the post comments. Point taken on the paragraph breaks. Never posted to a BBS/Blog/website/cave wall before and am picking up visual etiquette as I go along. By “[more inside]”, can I presume you mean to post just the headline, then post the bulk of the text/links as a comment?
vito, Tagliabue and the boys did meet and OT reform was discussed and vetoed. Check that "Meh"link for more info. For the record, I completely agree with Jaquandor. What’s overlooked in the “place the ball at the 20” premise is that now the _special teams_ are negated. The point of revamping OT (at least in my mind) is not just that both teams get a shot but that the whole team (offense, defense, and spec. teams)gets involved, for fairness sake. I would only add that if after one possession apiece the game is still tied, then it’s a draw. That should keep the networks happy, keep the drama hot and allow us to watch the first quarter of the following game in peace. But in a perfect world, where I made all the rules? Make OT a special teams war. Hardly fair, but hella fun: One kickoff per team, longest runback wins. In the incredibly unlikely event of a back-to-back touchdown return, both teams re-kick. Short, sweet, intriguing and yet another way that KC can go unbeaten (before losing to Tennessee in the playoffs). Just a thought... And um, gspm, the point was that people (especially bloggers, in my experience) tend to overstate the hassle of registering to use a website. My lil’ note was a lil’ joke at the expense of that mindset. No slam to the NYT intended and no offense taken on my part by your comment, of course. But, hey, what the heck? Do you work there or something?

posted by forksclovetofu at 11:40 PM on November 10, 2003

I like OT as it is. The next best option is a 10-minute period. Beyond that is a simple tie. Whether both teams get the ball should be the least of our concerns. It's not as if the coin flip is the equivalent of a "free kick" for the receiving team. The defense plays a role, and it does its job 71 percent of the time in getting the ball back for the offense. To me, I thought that's what people were fretting last year, the misconception that kicking the ball away was a virtual death sentence for your team. It's not ever going to be fair. Not every game is going to be on a neutral site with natural grass in 72 degree temperatures. At some point, this is football and the fairness portion is 60 minutes. After that, the point of it is to settle the game, because not everyone's going to be satisfied. Either the kicking team is going to make a stop -- as most teams do -- or it's going to be a quick trip to the 'L' column. Not much of a travesty to me.

posted by jackhererra at 07:25 AM on November 11, 2003

When you have 60 minutes to score more points than the other team, the unfairness of not getting the ball again in OT (especially if it's because your defense sucks) rings a bit hollow to me. If it were up to me, I'd just get rid of OT in the regular season, but that could lead to more teams playing for the tie instead of the win.

posted by dirigibleman at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2003

When you have 60 minutes to score more points than the other team, the unfairness of not getting the ball again in OT (especially if it's because your defense sucks) rings a bit hollow to me.... Well, then why have extra innings in baseball, if you can't get more runs in nine innings? Why have OT in any sport at all?

posted by Jaquandor at 04:09 PM on November 11, 2003

What's interesting about the NFL's format is that for some reason ties at the end of regulation are bad, but ties after a 15 minute OT are okay. That being the case, why not just play one full quarter of football for every OT? That way each team would get the ball (probably multiple times) and if they tie, they tie. This would most likely result in more ties than we get now, but would seem to be more true to the game.

posted by kloeprich at 05:58 PM on November 11, 2003

I've never bought the analogies to baskeball, baseball or hockey or anything else. It's tougher to score in football than it is in basketball, thus the necessity of playing a full 5-minutes in hoops. The defense plays a more active role in scoring in football than in baseball, thus even at-bats in that sport. And possession changes almost by the minute in hockey, to the point that getting the puck at least once seems a silly consideration. Upon further review, what's wrong with that XFL thing where two players would scramble for the ball to determine possession? It certainly eliminates whining about the coin-flip.

posted by jackhererra at 08:35 PM on November 11, 2003

It's not ever going to be fair. Not every game is going to be on a neutral site with natural grass in 72 degree temperatures. Agreed. However, allowing each offense a chance at the ball will improve the fairness of the game.

posted by dusted at 08:53 PM on November 11, 2003

I've never bought the analogies to baskeball, baseball or hockey or anything else. Those analogies merely imply that the exact same thing you say about football -- i.e., that you have 60 minutes to get a lead in regulation -- also apply in the other sports. Just because the other sports have different mechanisms means nothing to that point. And as Dusted notes, just because perfect fairness can never be attained doesn't mean we shouldn't try to make things more fair along the way.

posted by Jaquandor at 09:15 PM on November 11, 2003

Kloeprich, the NFL doesn't want a full extra quarter because of the game's physically-punishing nature. An entire extra quarter would probably be excessive; sudden-death is supposed to get it over with as quickly as possible. That's why I like my idea (well of course I like my own idea!) of awarding victory to the first team that leads after each team has had possession. That way you can't win by simply getting the ball first, but you can still have OT end quickly.

posted by Jaquandor at 09:18 PM on November 11, 2003

I guess the difference in opinion is how much of a role the defense plays. To me, it's enough of a role to make it fair, and scoring is significant enough where the team that does it first should win the game, whenever that happens. Same as hockey. At some point, it's about being as good as your weakest link. In contrast, baseball is set up where the home team bats last. By nature, a home team down by a few runs has a chance to equal or top its opponent in the ninth inning, or any later inning that applies. So no sudden-death there. In basketball, a single field goal isn't significant enough to warrant ending the game. Giving both teams the ball won't kill anyone, but it just doesn't solve a whole lot. I don't think it's going to make the kicking team feel much better if it gives up a TD, then scores a TD, only to give up another TD and lose. All you have is a sudden-death OT pig with a silk hat. If you continue with another possession for the kicking team, we're in baseball mode, or worse yet, college football mode. The NFL doesn't want a full quarter because it doesn't want to piss off the networks by having early games to bleed into late games and late games to bleed into prime-time. But a 10-minute period would work.

posted by jackhererra at 11:54 AM on November 12, 2003

jackhererra: agreed. if you don't want to lose without touching the ball in overtime, upgrade your kickoff specialist and defense. that said, i'll support just getting rid of the coin flip and kickoff for overtime, if that prevents montrosities like the college ot system, or automatically giving the ot kicking team an offensive series. the team with the ball at the end of regulation keeps it, at the same position on the field. what could be simpler?

posted by lescour at 12:41 PM on November 12, 2003

How about an NHL-like solution: seven-on-seven squads for the OT but still sudden death?

posted by billsaysthis at 01:47 PM on November 12, 2003

How about an NHL-like solution Install boards, flood the field, flash freeze it, flip a coin, and voila...parity, or both teams at a disadvantage.

posted by garfield at 04:40 PM on November 12, 2003

Garfield, I like your thinking ;)

posted by billsaysthis at 06:24 PM on November 12, 2003

I'm late returning, but what the hell... Kloeprich, the NFL doesn't want a full extra quarter because of the game's physically-punishing nature. Horseshit. If the NFL really cared about the "physically-punishing" nature of the game they wouldn't have four preseason games. It's about money. The networks provide the money, and they want a quick resolution so that games don't bleed over into the telecasts of other games or into prime time programming. Plain and simple. God forbid you should be watching a tight overtime game on FOX when CBS is cueing up the first quarter of the Bengals-Jets.

posted by kloeprich at 06:31 PM on November 13, 2003

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