“Agree to Disagree, But I’m Probably Right” : The NFL Does OT Wrong, Should Adapt to College Rules
November 29, 2016
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As of week eight of the NFL season, two games have ended in a tie, something that hasn’t happened in the NFL since 1997. It made me wonder, why make overtime so complicated?
Currently, if the score is tied after the fourth quarter, a fifth, 15-minute quarter will be played to determine the winner. Whichever team gets the ball first has the opportunity to win the game if they are able to find the end zone. However if they fail to score, or only score a field goal, the other team gets a chance to either tie the score again or win the game. The complicated part of the NFL overtime is when the team that starts the period with the ball converts a field goal to take the lead. The other team is given a chance to win the game. The second team can also lose the game if they are unable to score a field goal during their possession. If they are able to get a field goal but not a touchdown, the overtime period will then become a sudden-death overtime in which the next score wins. However, if time expires in the overtime period, the game will end in a tie.
Ties in the NFL only complicate divisional races. A tie is neither a win nor a loss, but still has an impact on the team’s record and win percentage, not to mention that no fan wants to watch five quarters of football so the game can end without a winner.
After the 1995 college football rule changes, no game can end in a tie. Both teams are given the ball on the 25-yard line during the overtime period. A coin toss will determine which team will be on defense first and which team will be on offense first. The overtime period in college is not timed and will not end in a tie. If both teams score a field goal or touchdown then they will go into another overtime period, but whichever team was on defense first will now be on offense to start the next overtime period. The teams will continue to play in overtime period until a winner is determined, flipping which team starts with the ball in each period. To increase the difficulty of overtime, once the third overtime period has started, teams are not allowed to kick the extra point after a touchdown and are forced to go for the two-point conversion.
The record for overtimes in a college football game is seven. This has happened three times, two of which Arkansas was at the winning end of the marathon game.
The NFL needs to adopt college overtime rules. The overtime period will be shorter than another 15-minute quarter, both teams will be given a fair chance in overtime, and the game won’t end in a tie. Obviously, starting at the 25-yard line will be too close for NFL teams because of the consistency and talent of professional kickers. Perhaps making NFL teams start on the 40-yard line, or requiring them to score a touchdown after the second overtime period will be among the adjustments that would have to be made for the NFL to adopt the overtime rules.
Watching two NFL teams play a seven overtime game might get extremely boring, but at least it won’t end in a tie. The NFL Playoff’s overtime rules say that no game can end in a tie. So if the first 15-minute extra quarter ends in a tie, then the two teams will play another sudden death 15-minute quarter until a winner is determined. The NFL playoff rules are another option that the league can take to fix the regular season problem. However, most owners will be opposed of having their teams play a six-quarter regular season game, which could potentially be irrelevant to the team’s chances of making the playoffs.
Regardless of which format the NFL uses, overtime rules need to be fixed. In the MLB, teams can play several extra innings to determine a winner, and in the NBA, shortened quarters are played after regulation if the game is tied. Both organizations have these overtime rules to prevent a game ending in a tie.
As an athlete, I think losing is more comforting than having a game end in a tie. If you lose, you know that the other team is better and more prepared, and you know that next time you have an opportunity to play them you need to execute better. However, if you tie, it isn’t clear which team had the better game plan.
As a fan, watching a sporting event that ends in a tie is very anti-climatic. Fans want a winner and we want a loser. I fully believe that if the NFL were to adapt the overtime rules used in college football, then ties will be eliminated and fans everywhere will be satisfied.