Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Against The Overtime Changes

The last few years there has been this ground swell, mostly led by sports pundits rather than fans, to change the overtime rules for the NFL. It seems that the core of the argument seems to be one about "fairness". Its not "fair" they say if both teams don't get a chance to score. I'm not quite sure what they think "fairness" is supposed to mean when it comes to football but none of the arguments have ever made any sense to me. Now the owners have come together and approved new rules for overtime that will only be implemented in the playoffs and I gotta say they are fixing something that isn't broken in my opinion and really although overtime games are rare if there IS a playoff game next year that goes into overtime the owners are going to subject themselves to the wrath of the law of unintended consequences.

First lets dispense with this notion of fairness. Football is not fair. NFL football is for damn sure not fair. The rules of football are about competition, not fairness and it has worked for decades that way. Hell every so often you see them change the rules so that the offensive guys get even MORE of an advantage over defensive guys all in the name of competition (ie scoring in that case). So when I hear people using the "fairness" argument in support of changing the overtime rules I generally just laugh and tune them out. But now with these new rules supposedly things are supposed to be fair now correct? Well let me give you the real perspective.

The new rules as best as I can tell are meant to insure that both teams get a turn with the ball unless the team with the first possession scores a touchdown. Now that sounds great in theory but let me give you a very likely situation to let you understand what this means in practice.

Not every team has a high powered offense and many of them have average offenses with outstanding defenses and they rely on their field goal kicking to pull them through close games that their defense keeps them in. So lets say a game goes into overtime and this defensive team gets the ball first. They find themselves in a situation where its 4th and 1 on say the 30 yard line. Normally they would be able to kick a 47 yard field goal and be rewarded for working their way down the field and having an accurate field goal kicker with a win. But now the head coach of that team has to go through a different thought process. If he kicks the field goal then he opens himself up to lose should the other team score a touchdown. And after all its 4th and 1 and maybe they can get a first down and keep driving for a touchdown to end the game. Besides that if you miss the field goal then the other team gets the ball at damn near midfield and they only need a field goal to win.

On the other hand, the team that loses the toss really only has to have two concerns to begin with. The first is just making sure that the other team doesn't score a touchdown. And secondly determining how aggressive to be when they get their turn with the ball. And this is what you call "fairness"?! Giving basically all of the options to the team that loses the coin toss?

Like I said, this is going to sound so awesome to people who have been fooled by sports pundits into thinking there was a problem with overtime in the first place, right up until their team gets hosed by the new rule. There will be a game where a team scratches and claws to tie the game up right at the end of regulation and then they will get the ball in overtime and kick a field goal and then after all that some how some way the other team will end up scoring a touchdown and people are going to be PISSED. There is a reason why sudden death worked for so many years. Its because it was only supposed to be an extension of the game in regulation. An extension only until one team scores and then everybody goes home. Now because of "fairness" its about everybody getting a chance to score I suppose.

More than anything else I can't support the change because I am old school. I believe that defenses should have to stop a team from going down and scoring a field goal if they don't want to lose in overtime. I don't buy any of the bullshit reports about moving the kickoff back helping teams score field goals easier. Teams still have kickers that push the ball out of the endzone on a regular basis. If a team is having an easy time in overtime marching down the field for a field goal then either their offense is just that good, or the opposing team's defense is just that bad. Either way its FOOTBALL and there's nothing wrong with that.

You want to know my answer to how you fix overtime if its really that necessary? You change the 5 yard chuck rule to the 10 yard chuck rule and you allow defenders to chuck offensive players for 10 yards down the field. Right now teams can't even play cover 2 the way it was meant to be played because the cornerbacks can't reroute at 5 yards for fear of being called for a penalty that carries with it an automatic first down even though it only grants 5 positive yards to the offensive team. Maybe, just maybe if corners were allowed to do their job more often teams wouldn't be able to move the ball down the field with such ease. And such it wouldn't be quite as easy for teams to go down and score a field goal on the first possession of overtime.

But the owners would never go for that. Why? Because for them scoring sells and defense is boring. They don't care about "fairness" in that situation, no siree. They only care about scoreboards being filled up and high Nielsen TV ratings for all the games. So instead we get a boondoggle masquerading as "fairness" that is going to piss a lot of people off when it doesn't go their way.


  1. Steve, I couldn't agree more! I've always thought, if you lose the overtime coin toss, play defense and get the damn ball back for your offense. If you can't stop the other team on defense, you don't deserve to win.

    I was pissed when the Saints beat the Vikings in the playoffs, but the Vikings didn't play defense when the game counted.

    One thing you didn't touch on is the strategy that occurs at the end of regulation. Depending on the situation, teams sometimes have the option to play for a tie or go for the win. I wonder how the new overtime rule will effect that stategy. Will they be more or less inclined to go to overtime? -Louie

  2. Steve, I couldn't agree more! I've always thought that if you lose the overtime coin toss, then play defense and get the damn ball back for your offense.

    I was pissed when the Saints beat the Vikings in the playoffs, but the Vikings didn't play defense when it counted. Sucks for them!

    How will this new rule effect the strategy at the end of regulation? Sometimes, teams have the option to go for a win or play for a tie. With this new rule, I wonder if coaches will be more or less likely to go into overtime. Any thoughts on that, Steve?


  3. Shit! Sorry for the double post. First one didn't show up for a while. What the hell, I said it better the 2nd time anyway.

  4. If the team winning the coin toss wins 60% of the time, how is it keeping a level playing field for competition? I agree that defense is a key part of the game, but throughout games good defense often still yields field goals.

    Also, if you do have a really good defense, scoring field goals is still good enough with the new rules. You score a field goal, the opposing offense gets the ball and now you have to play defense to stop them from scoring a field goal.

    I was fine with the previous rules and I'm fine with these rules and don't see it mattering much either way, really. But it's hard to deny that giving both teams the chance to play defense and offense is a bad thing.

  5. @Sander

    Everybody keeps touting the 60% figure but its bogus. For one they don't break it down by how many of them win by touchdown which according to the new rules would be a win anyway. For two it doesn't take into account the teams that win the toss and end up winning the game but not on the initial drive. But here is my biggest problem, football has NEVER been about fairness or each team getting a shot. If that's what it was about then teams should just each get the same amount of offensive drives and then whomever wins in the end wins the game. Who wants to watch that kind of football? Like I said everybody will either like or be ambivalent to this rule until it hurts their team and then they are going to hate it. ESPECIALLY because it will only be used in the playoffs which means somebody will advance and somebody will go home based on these new rules.

    Keep this in mind, the Vikings had the Saints stopped at least twice in overtime but they gave up yardage and first downs on bullshit penalties. But for that we probably aren't even having this conversation now.