The NFL has altered its overtime rules for playoff games, but this one already has sailed wide right.
Starting this season, the team losing the coin toss and giving up a field goal on the first possession would get a series of its own to try to tie the game again (and have the remainder of OT contested under current sudden-death rules), or win the game with a touchdown.
The new rule – passed by a 28-4 vote at the league’s annual winter meeting in Orlando — follows a study showing the team winning the OT coin toss ends up winning the game 59.8 percent of the time while the team losing the coin toss wins 38.5 percent. From 1974-93, it was 50-50 on who won the coin toss and who won the game. Blame the changing numbers on better field-goal accuracy and special teams play, and moving kickoffs back 5 yards to the 30-yard line.
I think the owners should have kept the more dramatic sudden-death factor, but changed two things:
* The team that has the most yards from scrimmage gets the ball first in OT.
* No field goals allowed in OT.
On my first point, I’ve always wondered why reward a team for having the luck of the coin toss? Even the team that loses the pre-game coin toss gets to have the ball at the start of one half. And, field goals have become the bane of the NFL with increasingly conservative coaches content to settle for 3 points, sometimes as soon as they reach the opponents’ 40-yard line.
It’s noteworthy that Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf, whose team lost to New Orleans in January’s NFC title game, when the Saints won the coin toss in OT and drove to the winning field goal, thought this idea was half-baked. He said why not have the team that wins the OT coin toss simply start at its own 20-yard line, thus taking away the chance for a short kickoff and/or long kickoff return putting a team almost within field-goal range from the start of the fifth quarter.
That proposal would have been fine with me, too, because it might have forced some teams to consider actually playing for a win in regulation rather than taking their chances in OT.