Dear God, Please Change the NFL Overtime Rules

Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I never should have opened up Twitter after last night’s AFC Championship Game, but I did it anyway. Then I wasted at least 30 minutes arguing with various people about the NFL’s overtime rules.

I personally hate the OT rules because, as currently constructed, you’re allowing for a scenario where the game ends before both teams receive an offensive possession. The Patriots won the ball, which was determined by a coin flip, marched down the field and scored a walk-off touchdown. Patrick Mahomes was glued to the bench and didn’t even get to participate.

Tell me how that’s fair…

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It’s not.

The main counter-argument I get from people goes something like this:

“Yeah, well, the defense should get a stop!”

Yes, that’s true. Kansas City should have been able to get off the field on one of those third and long situations. They really blew it.

But that’s not the point. It’s not about the defense making a play. It’s about competitive balance.

See, it’s much more reasonable to give each team at least one possession to match what the opposing offense was able to do on their possession. If each squad has an offensive unit and defensive unit, those units should face each other at least once in overtime. We watched an overtime period last night where 50% of the players at Arrowhead Stadium didn’t even see the field.

The best way to illustrate what I’m talking about is to take the ridiculous NFL overtime rules and apply them to other sports.

Take tennis, for instance. Imagine Roger Federer wins a coin toss and elects to serve. Rafael Nadal doesn’t get to serve, Federer hits four aces, and the game is over.

Are you going to sit here and tell me that Nadal should have broken his serve? No, because breaking serve is measurably harder than holding serve. That’s why players alternate service in a tiebreaker. It’s the same thing in volleyball and ping pong. Are you gonna tell me that the serving team should be given a walk-off scenario? I hope not.

Apply the NFL overtime rules to baseball:

Imagine the Phillies are playing at home and the game goes into extra innings tied at three. Yasiel Puig hits a home run and the game is over. He walks it off in the top of the tenth. Are you going to blame Seranthony Dominguez? Sure, but you’re also going to lament how absurd it is that the Phillies were denied the bottom half of the inning. How can one team bat but the other cannot?

Apply the NFL overtime rules to basketball:

You flip a coin. The Sixers win possession. If they hit a three-pointer, they win the game, but if they hit a two-pointer, the Nets get a chance to have the ball.

Apply the NFL overtime rules to soccer:

One team gets to take all of their penalty kicks first. If they convert all five, the game is over, and the other team doesn’t get a chance to line up and match them.

Apply the NFL overtime rules to gymnastics:

Mary Lou Retton gets to do her floor routine first. If she scores a 10, she wins. If she scores a 9, then her opponent gets to do her floor routine.

Apply the NFL overtime rules to mixed martial arts:

Daniel Cormier starts with side control over Derrick Lewis. If Lewis gets up off the mat, he then gets a chance to start in side control. But if he doesn’t, he loses.

See? See how dumb it is?

I could sit here and give you a million examples, but you get the point. If a coin flip is going to determine an offensive possession or service, then the fairest way to write the rules is to allow the opposing team an opportunity to matchInstead we’re rolling out tired defenses against elite quarterbacks in a sport where the offense is typically on the front foot, especially in the modern day NFL, where recent rule changes have proven advantageous to offensive units.

I really like the way college football handles overtime. Start each offense on the 25 yard line. Score a touchdown, kick a field goal, or do neither. Then the other team comes out and gets a shot to match or outdo what the opponent just did. If teams match each other into the third overtime, scoring a touchdown comes with a mandated two-point conversion attempt. There are no scenarios where Dwayne Haskins or Trevor Lawrence are forced to sit on the bench.

And regardless of whether or not the rule is fair, the NFL is just shooting itself in the foot from a marketing and entertainment standpoint. Everybody watching on TV wanted to see Mahomes get the ball in overtime. Likewise, if Mahomes had gone down the field and scored, we would have been robbed of another potentially spectacular Tom Brady comeback effort.

The NFL overtime rules are indisputably lame. Even the dude from 98 Degrees understands this:

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16 Responses

    1. What size bra does CBWanker wear? For god sakes dude, work in a few pushups why don’t ya?

  1. If they do go to college overtime format, which i don’t think they will, teams need to get the ball at around the 50 yd line, not 25 like in college.

  2. the current nfl overtime rules must have been contrived by nancy pelosi , they are without question assinine

  3. I agree. Both teams should get a possession. I saw a stat that TB12 has been involved in 3 OT playoff games and in all 3, the other team lost without touching the ball.

  4. Should I be reading the headline of this article in the same cadence as the Judy Blume book about the girl getting her first period or in an exasperated tone?

    Dear God,
    Are you there? It’s me, Kevin.

    OR

    DEAR GOD, Please change the NFL overtime rules!

  5. You’re absolutely right, if the Patriots score a touchdown by marching the ball all the way down the field and score a touchdown they shouldn’t win sudden death overtime only necessary because neither team had the lead after 60 minutes of game time. Then if the Chiefs scored, the Patriots should get the ball back and then get an opportunity to score again. But wait, then that isn’t fair because they got 2 possessions because of a coin flip, so the Chiefs should get the ball back. Oh no, they didn’t score because it’s a 15 minute and they ran out of time! Maybe we solve it by eliminating the game clock entirely and just letting them play until the Patriots lose.

    Jesus, the current set-up is fine, this is for the championship. If the Chiefs D wanted mahomes to get the ball so bad they’d have at least held them to a field goal. This was for the Championship. Do you think they should get to reset the caring order or re-use bench players in MLB extra innings because the other team got their 3, 4, 5 hitters up meanwhile Kapler has no option but to send out Plouffe, Dominguez and Kingery?

  6. Fully understand the critiques of the overtime rules, especially when it comes to “fairness.” In addition to putting both offenses on the field, for the sake of fairness, both defenses should probably be rolled out. But honestly, I kind of like the way it is now. It forces teams to value defense, in an age where offense is king. We knew all season long that the Chiefs’ biggest weakness was their defense. Oppositely, the Rams went out and mortgaged their future to improve their defense this season after the defense (and special teams) let them down in the playoffs last year. And this year, the Rams go into overtime against the best team in football, lose the overtime coin flip, and yet still walk out with a victory. As much as people today are hating on the overtime rules because it “screwed” the Chiefs out of a trip to the Super Bowl (it didn’t), the earlier game showed why the rule can work when a team recognizes the need for good defense, especially in the post-season. The only reason we’re not pointing to the Rams/Saints game as a case where the coin flip didn’t determine the winner is because that game shouldn’t have gone to overtime in the first place.

    So I get it. It’s maybe not the most “fair” rule system around. But it is exciting, and it does force teams to pay attention to both sides of the ball when building a roster. As exciting as the Chiefs and Mahomes were this year, they never played defense. And in the end, it was defense that cost them a trip to the Super Bowl, not the rules.

  7. Statistically, the coin flip gives you 10% better odds to win (55% to 45%). Having an advantage from a coin flip is asinine. The league balances everything else. The first coin flip still allows each team to start with the ball for one of the halves. Each team has the same number of home and away games. Even when there is a statistical advantage in the playoffs on home field advantage, the team earned it by winning more games than their opponent. A 10% advantage on a coin flip is insane.

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