How To Not Fix Broken Things: NFL Considering Overtime Rules Change

The inherent unfairness of a coin flip to determine how NFL overtimes begin -- and seeing only an offense or a defense win or lose a game in overtime -- has been a pet peeve of some NFL fans for years. Good news for that crew, myself included: the league is looking at new rules for playoff overtimes. Bad news: these aren't even good rules.

⇥Under the new format, both teams would get the ball at least once unless the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, Greg Aiello said. If the first team to get the ball makes a field goal and the other team ties the game, action would continue until a team scores again.

The new proposal is the sort of thing that might make a certain radical-for-radicalism's-sake national pundit happy, because it's something that person could come up with, so that person now gets to crow about it. But anything that could include the possibility for a one-play overtime on a special teams touchdown is far from airtight on fairness; should a "Music City Miracle"-style play end an overtime playoff game, the losing owner will have a complaint to the competition committee before half the fans have filed out. 

In looking to solve its overtime problem, the NFL needs only to look at its little brother.

Why couldn't the NFL take the college football overtime system -- overtime periods of alternating possessions until one team is ahead at period's end -- and move the ball back from the defense's 25 to the 50? It puts a team's offense out of field goal range, forcing aggressiveness, and permits the possibility of an exciting long pass to win a game outright. 

Sure, it takes the kickoff teams out of the overtime equation, but it gives each team a chance to play both offense and defense, barring a highly unlikely defensive touchdown. (And it would get rid of the weird "kick returns are possessions" standard Aiello was upholding on Twitter on Saturday.) By that standard alone, it is fairer than the current rules or the bizarre hybrid format the NFL is considering, which does nothing for fairness if a team scores a TD first.

But, of course, the NFL's pride tends to prevent it from making changes that admit fault, much less ones that concede that other systems are better. If a change is to be made this year, it will almost certainly be to the odd "Should you score, but not enough, old chap, I get a turn" system being discussed. I wonder how soon a new system will need alterations.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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