NFL overtimes: Going the wrong direction
The NFL voted to make its regular-season overtime the same as its playoff overtime. Now, both teams will get at least one possession. No more win the toss, win the game, without ever having to play defense. This has been a point of contention for years, and critics should be happy. I never thought it was a big problem, but whatever.
The biggest problem with overtime was not addressed, though. The biggest problem with overtime is the way some teams — most teams? — play for it. Most coaches will work to get to overtime rather than try to win in regulation.
The most dramatic moment of a football game is do-or-die plays. Make this play, win. Don’t make this play, lose. That’s most commonly seen in two-point conversions at the end of games, and it’s a play that’s largely died in football. We didn’t even have two-point conversions in the NFL until 1994. By which time, we already had overtime in the NFL. College football didn’t even have overtime until 1996.
Once overtime reached college football, coaches immediately started playing for it. Down seven, 30 seconds to go, score a touchdown, kick the extra point. Delay the suspense. Delay the drama. Put the onus on someone else’s back. Forget, for a moment, that the college football overtime absolutely stinks. Any kind of overtime pales in comparison to a do-or-die two-point conversion.
But it’s not just the two-point conversion. Down three, late in the game, inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, mere seconds left in the game, coaches get conservative. Play for the field goal to get to overtime.
Same in the NFL. Coaches work to get to overtime, where their chances are just 50-50. In the NFL, two-point conversion rate is a little under 50 percent, so the odds are with conservative coaches. But I would argue that the odds are with creative coaches. With aggressive coaches. With confident coaches.
The overtime rule I always advocated was this: Keep NFL overtime the same. First one to score wins. The change I would make? Flip the coin, or determine who gets the ball first, before the game is played. If the Seahawks know the Chargers will get the ball first in overtime, the Seahawks will be more aggressive at the end of regulation. Sure, you might say San Diego will be less aggressive, but I would argue that any team would be hard-pressed to be less-aggressive. They already are almost passive when it comes to getting to overtime.
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