Prior to the start of the 2011 -2012 NFL season, the owners of the 32 teams voted on a proposal to change the Overtime rules. Upon hearing of the proposal, many NFL fans rejoiced. The NFL’s Overtime had long been considered nearly as broken as the BCS system. The previous system allowed a team to win the game by kicking a field goal on their first overtime drive without ever allowing the opposing team a chance at the ball.
This struck many fans, including me, as more than a little unfair. If a team got a good return on the kickoff they would often not need many first downs to be in field goal range, and with the defenses tired after a full game of football, it wasn’t terribly hard for offenses to end up in field goal range at the end of the first drive. Thus there was excitement regarding the proposed changes until two little details came out.
The first was that the proposed changes would not result in a Kansas Plan overtime system, such as the NCAA uses. The second was that the new overtime rules would only affect the NFL playoffs and not the regular season. The second concern was fixed this week when the owners voted to extend the new overtime rules to the regular season.
You may be asking what the new overtime rules are and it’s a pretty simple change. If the team which wins the coin toss kicks a field goal on the first drive of the Overtime period then they will still have to kick the ball off to the other team. The other team will then have a chance to drive the field and score a touchdown or kick a field goal to win or tie. If the second team is unable to score following an opening field goal the first team wins. If the first team is able to score a touchdown on their opening drive then they win the game. If the first team is unable to score on the opening drive, the overtime reverts to sudden death contest. Did I say simple? I meant needlessly convoluted but it’s still better than the previous overtime plan.
In last year’s playoffs the new overtime rules did not come into play. There were two overtime games in the playoffs last year. The first one involved the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was won on the first drive by a Tim Tebow touchdown pass. The second overtime game of last season’s playoffs was between the New York Giants and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. The Giants won that game after punting on their first drive and having the 49ers returner fumble the ball. They kicked a field goal that won them the game and put them in to the Super Bowl. Two overtime games and the new rules didn’t come in to play, maybe if they’d extended to the regular season they would have had an impact on the Seahawks. Actually if you look at the Seahawks one overtime game, a week seventeen loss to the Cardinals, the new rules still would not have come into play.
The new overtime rules haven’t made an impact so you’d be justified in asking why I’m making such a big deal about this. I’m making a big deal about the new rules because the sudden death overtime was a terrible idea that did not work. The new system is slightly better but it can still be improved. It wouldn’t even be hard to improve this system the blue print is right there in the NCAA overtime rules. The Kansas plan is the only competitively acceptable method for breaking a tie in Football.