The Packers didn’t lose in the NFL Divisional Round because of a coin toss. It was because of their Defence. But, the coin toss, and the current NFL rules are a factor. In a sport vying for excitement, to keep our butts in seats for hour after hour on Sunday, the fact that there’s a ‘TD in OT ends it’ rule in 2016 is nothing short of a joke. Clay Mathews of the Packers has a point. We need to sort it.
Why is it like this?
It’s hard to imagine, but prior to 2010, the rule was worse. In essence back then,if you won the toss, all you needed to do was get to the 35 yard line and score a FG. No right of reply. Yada. Then the Shield thought that they needed to make it fairer, and gave both teams the right to have a go, unless the first team scored a Touchdown. (Or if defensive points were scored, but that’s not an issue here).
This continues to make zero sense, and implies:
- The first team will score PAT
- The second team will not score a TD
- The second team would not score a PAT after a TD to tie the game
- The second team would not consider a 2 Point Conversion to win the game and avoid 2OT.
Or, in other words, some pretty big assumptions. Especially when considering that to get to OT, the two teams must be pretty equal, otherwise it wouldn’t be a tied game.
Why do these OT rules exist?
I won’t lie, I’ve not researched this heavilly, but I’d assume that it would be a mixture of three points:
- NFLPA wanting to protect players
- The league wanting to get to the next game in a double header.
- Networks wanting to get to their regular programming (Especially come post season).
Again however, none of this seems to make much sense. The NFLPA surely want to see the integrity of the game go above a couple of extra plays from scrimmage, especially as they would have been under harsher conditions at collegiate level (more to come on this). The league LOVES intrigue, and OT, like shootouts in the NHL or Association Football provides this. Finally, in postseason especially, networks are getting 25+ Million people watching. More would likely tune in if they knew a game was heading for OT, and sponsors even create special commercials, such as AIG in the early 2000s.
One could make an argument about either having to get people home, or the impact on a doubleheader equally, especially as one game can create a snowball effect. For non post season games, the NFL has a well versed set of procedures for TV coverage, which, combined with long term streaming plans will minimise impact anyway. Additionally of course, regular season games have one OT period before declaring a draw. The issue becomes more apparent in postseason because of scheduling and TV times, especially if the second game is on a different network to the first (Like it was Saturday with CBS then NBC).
I don’t buy into the getting home side of things really, especially as the times of games can change at short notice throughout the season, and America’s a car country, relying less on public transport than say the UK (Which would be an issue in any OT situation for a game scheduled at 1PM ET). They played a game at stupid O’clock once in Oakland because of the need to get the field changed from MLB to NFL, and guess what. Fans still showed up and stayed late!
So now we come to broadcasters. This one does hold some weight, as what would NBC be expected to do if their game was delayed by the first post-season game? Show EVEN MORE Football Night in America? America has enough Bob Costas as it is! The alternative is simple though. Let the second network show the feed of the first game until it’s concluded, sans commercials (Or using the same commercials as the first broadcaster, to help make the ratings fairer).
So why should we use the CFB method?
Having rebutted any possible reason for these rules the NFL come up with (Except for of course the standard “Because we don’t care”), now comes the next step. Looking at how the CFB OT method would work better. Over in NCAA land, where student athletes work and work for no financial reward, here’s a brief synopsis as to how the rules work:
- Ball is placed on the 25 Yard line
- Team A has a possession
- Regardless of outcome, Team B has a possession
- If teams are tied after, repeat.
- After 3OT, force a 2 Point conversion instead of a PAT.
Makes sense? Of course it does! It creates compelling viewing, and is FAIR. The coin toss is to decide who gets the ball first (You want it last of course), and which end of the field you are playing towards (Both play toward the same end to counteract the unfairness of wind for example, though you’d want the opposing team to be playing towards the noisiest, most unfriendly place possible).
But, would it work in the NFL?
One could argue yes immediately, however this would be bit optimistic. The principles could clearly work, though perhaps some small changes could be implemented, depending on what the league would want to achieve. This would likely come down to where possession would start, and the subsequent rule on being able to kick field goals. Naturally, the one OT only for regular season games should in theory remain, however this could well be adapted to have 2 or even 3 OT periods maximum.
At college level, a drive will start at the 25 yard line, and a 3 and out would mean a 42 yard field goal. Not all teams have a kicker consistent enough to make even 90% of these, and therefore kicking field goal would still be a bit of a roulette. However in the NFL, most teams have kickers who could kick 45 yard field goals with their eyes closed. Therefore, unless there were to be numerous negative yardage plays, kicking a field goal for the sake of it in OT would be a waste of energy. This could be fixed by starting drives at the 50 yard line, however this leads to the issue of time once again.
One of the reasons why college OT works well is that realistically, there would be no more than 12 plays on any OT drive. Whilst this is still about the same as a normal drive in any form of football, the realistic scenario is that drives will be smaller, quicker paced, and more intensive. All of this makes for great television. The strategy here is important too. You are in automatic 4 down territory in most cases, so the playbook is wide open. Heck, on 4th and medium, expect shovel passes and laterals not seen since Miami blinded an entire ACC crew.
So, that’s scheduling, starting points, and timings sorted, though the issue would still remain with player fatigue. With drives starting closer to the end zone, there is an additional risk of injury, and without the targeting penalties that exist within CFB, there is a chance that the NFLPA in particular may raise issues. Again though, there is the fact that players are used to this style of OT play, and the most important point of all…
…More than anything, using these rules would make things fair once again. Even if only one aspect of CFB OT rules were to be transferred to the Pro league, it’s the most important. Regardless of everything, letting both teams have the opportunity to seal their destiny on Offence, Defence and Special Teams. Not being at the mercy of only 1/2 of the team. Whilst the Packers may not have won the game, we would have at least have had the chance to see Aaron Rogers take the field in one of the biggest drives since Super Bowl 45. After all, he is the reigning league MVP, and we may now never know how those in Green and Yellow can play under that much pressure.