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The NFL could improve overtime with these 6 options

Some make more sense than others, and nothing is perfect.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

There have been two ties in as many weeks to start this NFL season. Both have been good, silly, and, at times, controversial games. While we’ve enjoyed them, many folks — like Aaron Rodgers — would prefer if they didn’t end in ties, which is understandable.

Ties aren’t the end of the world. Though when you consider that the NFL’s overtime rule changes from 2012 (first added to the postseason in 2010) were supposed to cut down on them, there’s still an “issue” to be fixed. In 2017, the NFL made a tweak on the rule once more, cutting the overtime periods from 15 minutes to 10.

There’s never going to be one solution that everybody will agree on. There are clear pros and cons to any alternative. But it’s fun to imagine a different overtime protocol that goes until we have a winner. Let’s explore some ideas.

Keep playing with the current rules, for the most part

Let’s start with the most basic idea: people would probably be alright with the rules as they stand as long as there’s no tie.

Here’s the amended overtime in this circumstance:

  • Teams can only win on the first possession if they score a touchdown — a field goal, punt, or turnover gives the other team a chance to score.
  • If the score is still tied after one possession apiece, then we go into sudden-death rules.
  • If nobody is able to score when the period runs out, then the game ends in a tie.


Pros: There’s not a big rule overhaul, just no tie.

Cons: There’s not a big rule overhaul, and playing forever is bad for player safety.

Implement college overtime rules

College overtime isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close. There aren’t ties, and we’re trying to break those here. The rules are relatively simple:

  • Each period consists of one possession for each team, the order of which is decided by a pre-overtime coin toss.
  • Each possession starts at the defense’s 25-yard line.
  • If the teams remain tied at the end of a period, they play another full period.
  • After each period, the order of possession flips. So if you had the ball first in one period, you have it second in the next.
  • Starting in the third period, teams can no longer kick extra points and must go for two after touchdowns. This is to try and help things wrap up quickly.

This is the best immediate solution.

Pros: Games would probably get even more weird and exciting. It mostly evens the playing field, and we could get multiple overtimes filled with drama without burning out the players.

Cons: There’s an advantage to going second on offense. The first team has to play for a touchdown, and the second team knows exactly what it needs.

The “cut-and-choose” system

This was pitched by the Quanbeck brothers to the NFL, and reported on in 2005 by The New York Times (h/t The Ringer):

In the cut-and-choose system, the loser of the toss would decide where the opening possession of overtime would start — say, the offense’s 15-yard line. The winner of the coin flip would chose whether it wanted the ball or whether it would start on defense.

Overtime would then go on with sudden death in a 15-minute period. Playing until there’s a clear winner is also feasible, but the sudden death is a nice element of anticipation, and this system has the most theatrical feel to it.

Pros: The entertainment value of this is amazing.

Cons: Let’s be real, the NFL would never consider this — 1. because it’s so radical compared to tradition, and 2. it would confuse most fans.

Play 15 minute periods of extra time until somebody wins

This is perhaps the most Business As Usual solution, if you could even call it a “solution.” The teams would just play another 15 minute period of time through with no sudden death until somebody leads when the clock hits triple zero.

Pros: It’s pretty plan stuff? Just keep playing the game until you have a winner in a normal setting.

Cons: Imagine this going into four extra periods. That’s two games in one day, and that’s no good.

The above, but World Cup-it instead of playing until somebody wins

Play just two extra periods of football (if needed). If the teams are still locked in a tie after the second one, Let the kickers duke it out in a best-of-five kick-off from 50 yards out.

Pros: Football becomes more like actual fútbol. OK, that’s not really a pro, but whatever.

Cons: God forbid we put more weight of the game on kickers.

Rock, paper, scissors

Best two out of three. Never fails. Also, the NFL should call it “paper, rock, scissors” to make it their own.

Let Pizza Hut sponsor it, and if the home team wins with paper, they get 20 percent off online orders the next day. Boom.

Pros: Quick, easy, painless solution.

Cons: It’s rock, paper, scissors.

Overall, there’s never going to be a perfect fix for determining a winner after a tie in regulation. No matter the setting, overtime is going to be dramatic, and somebody will likely be upset with the outcome because their team didn’t win. That’s also part of what makes sports great.

If you’ve got your own ideas for a solution, drop them in the comments below.