Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fixing Overtime In The NFL

Every year there's a clamor to "fix" overtime in the NFL. The complaint is that the results of a crucial game (especially a playoff game) can often be "decided by a coin flip".

The most popular idea is to adopt something like the NCAA, where each team is guaranteed a chance to score. I've also heard the idea to get rid of "sudden death" and play overtime periods until one team ends the game with the lead, much like in the NBA. I've even heard that field goals should be outlawed in overtime.

All of these ideas are horrible.

Football is a tough game. We don't want games stretching on to five or six hours. We also don't want to miss our favorite team's game on TV because the previous game runs over.

The solution is elegantly simple: play with the current sudden death rules, but automatically award the coin flip to the home team.

In addition to eliminating the coin flip, there are a number of other positive effects:
1) This increases the importance of home field advantage in the playoffs. If a team like the Colts goes 14-2, they should get an edge if a playoff game goes to overtime (just as the home team in baseball has a strategic advantage).
2) We now know who the "home team" is in the Super Bowl. And it matters. This could have been especially important this season, in that when the Seahawks and Colts faced off in Week 15, they would have had home-field advantage to play for. Instead, nothing was on the line and the game was unwatchable.
3) It adds drama to the final minutes of a game, and clarifies strategy for coaches. If you're the away team, and you're up against a good offense, you want to play for the WIN, not the tie, in any last-minute play calls. You go for two if you have the chance. And you go for the touchdown instead of the field goal on 4th down. More excitement, and less overtime (which tends to run into the next game, which doesn't make most football fans happy).
Related post: Fixing Overtime In The NFL (Revisited)

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