The NFL needs to fix their overtime rules

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FILE – In this Feb. 4, 2018, file photo, official Gene Steratore views a replay to confirm a Corey Clement touchdown during NFL football Super Bowl 52 between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots in Minneapolis. Last year Steratore was preparing to be the referee for the Super Bowl. Steratore will be at the Super Bowl for the second straight year but this time he will be in the booth for CBS as its rules analyst. Steratore has transitioned well from the field to the booth in his first season and has done a good job conveying rules interpretations amid a season where there have been plenty of controversial calls, including in both of last weekend’s championship games.(AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

14 games went into overtime this year in the regular season. Seven times the team that won the coin flip won the game, doing so three times on the opening drive. Five times the team that lost the flip won, and two times the teams tied. Not a huge advantage, but an advantage nonetheless.

However, when postseason games go into overtime, the disparity gets even larger. Since 2010, eight playoff games have headed into overtime. Seven of them ended with the team that won the coin toss winning the game, and five of those times it was on the opening possession.

“But what about defense!?”

“If the defense can’t make a stop, they should deserve to lose.”

“Defense is just as big a part of the game as offense.”

All common sentiments of people opposed to a rule change. The problem with these arguments though is that they just flat out don’t make sense.

The main goal of the defense is to stop the opposing offense, that way your offense will get the ball and have a chance to score. Well for Tom Brady, his defense didn’t have to make a stop in order for him to get a chance to score and win the game because he won the coin toss. Why should the Chiefs have to go through an extra step before they get their own chance to win?

Why else does virtually every team elect to receive the ball if they win the coin toss? Because no team (aside from the 2015 New England Patriots) ever wants to have to make a stop before they get the ball. Why do something extra?

And yes, the defense can still score a touchdown, but the likelihood of them doing so is much less than the offense. There were 1,287 offensive touchdowns this regular season, and only 69 defensive touchdowns. The opportunity to win the game while playing offense is nowhere near equal to the opportunity to win while playing defense.

Here’s another example.

In baseball, if a game goes into extra innings, both teams have a chance to put runs up on the board. If the away team scores in the top half of the inning, the game isn’t over just because the home team’s pitching and defense was unable to keep them scoreless. The home team still gets another turn at bat, where they can try to put their own runs on the board.

Each team gets the same number of outs to try to win the game, so why shouldn’t football teams get the same number of overtime possessions?

In the AFC Championship game, likely MVP Patrick Mahomes never saw the field in overtime. In Super Bowl LI, MVP Matt Ryan never saw the field in overtime. In the previous two seasons, Aaron Rodgers never got to see the field in overtime in back-to-back years. First in the NFC championship game, in what was his MVP year, and then again the next year in the divisional round.

All because the other team won the coin toss.

Even the NCAA understands this premise and gives each offense a chance to score until one team scores more than the other. Their system isn’t perfect, as the team that goes second knows how many points they need to tie it up or win the game, but it is light years better than what the NFL has in place.

David Gardner, a staff writer for Bleacher Report, came up with his own solution for how to replace the current rules.

“Each team gets possession of the ball,” Gardner said. “You have to score a touchdown, and then after the third overtime you have to go for two. But taking field goals out of the equation means that the team that goes second doesn’t have the same level of advantage because you know you have to score a touchdown regardless of the situation if you want to win the game.”

It would allow both teams to have an offensive possession as well as eliminate any advantage for whether you get the ball first or second. Works for me.

Even if the league just slightly adjusted the rules so a touchdown doesn’t end the game and act like a field goal does now, the vast majority of fans would be much happier.

If one thing is for certain, it’s that the rules they have in place now do not work. They need to make a change so teams like the Kansas City Chiefs don’t have their season ended because of a coin flip.


Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jorge.eckardt@uconn.edu.

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