Wojciechowski: NFL outsmarted itself with OT change

The NFL adopted a new overtime format for the postseason, but not for the regular season. The official explanation was the possibility of player injuries. Gene Wojciechowski takes exception:

But what about the possibility of injuries during those near-worthless preseason games? If NFL owners are so concerned about player safety, then deep-six half of those exhibition games. But they won’t because those games are financial rainmakers.

Anyway, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you’re protecting your players in the regular season, but then not protect them in the preseason. And you can’t have one set of overtime rules in the postseason and another set in the regular season.

He goes on to explain how the different rules for the regular season could affect the postseason:

But what about the risks to the integrity of the game and the playoff process? By limiting the new OT rules to the postseason, a team could be eliminated from the playoff chase by a coin toss and ensuing field goal — the very scenario that prompted such league power brokers as Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian to switch sides and push for the rules change.

So NFL owners are essentially admitting the old rule was flawed, and the new rule is better; yet they’re still keeping the old rule even though it could affect which teams can play under the new rule? How can so many smart owners make such a basic mistake?

As I’ve said before, the new system is better than the old system, but that isn’t saying much.

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NFL owners pass playoff OT rules change

The NFL owners voted today to change the overtime rules in the playoffs. Per the new rules, the team that lost the coin toss will get a possession if their opponents (the team that won the coin toss) don’t score a touchdown on their first possession.

From ESPN.com:

The proposal passed 28-4. As it is written, the rules change applies just for the postseason, but the owners also decided to discuss adopting the changes for the regular season at their next meeting, in May in Dallas.

“We’ve had this discussion for a number of years,” competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay said. “We feel this year’s proposal gave us the opportunity to [install] a pretty good rule. Statistically we felt it needed to be changed. It wasn’t creating the fairest result as far as field goal accuracy, field goal distance and drive starts.”

McKay said one of the selling points was it maintained the sudden death aspect of overtime.

As a fan, I really don’t know how to feel about this. Truth be told, I was fine with the coin toss as is, but I also don’t fault those that wanted to see the rule changed because games were being decided on the first possession (and by a coin toss, no less). So I guess I’m intrigued with how this could affect playoff games.

That said, whether you like the change or not, this new rule could breathe even more excitement into playoff games. Now, even if a team marches up the field and winds up kicking a field goal, they still have to play defense in order to win. I like the idea of adding more possessions in overtime, providing that the team that won the coin toss doesn’t score a touchdown of course. I think the rule is still a little janky (why not give the opposing team a chance to have a possession, regardless of whether or not the winners of the coin toss score a TD), but again, I’m intriguing by how this will all play out.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Goodell supports change to overtime rules

Per Pro Football Talk

Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a press conference held in conjunction with the annual league meetings in Orlando, spoke out in support of the tweak in the overtime rules proposed by the Competition Committee.

The proposal would prevent the team that receives the kickoff in overtime during a playoff game from winning with only a field goal on the first drive.

This is definitely a case where the league could let perfect get in the way of better, and while the proposed system is better, it still has its faults. First, there is still a lot of emphasis on the coin flip because the team that gets the ball first in overtime (Team A) would get it first once sudden death starts if Team B were to match Team A’s field goal. There’s also the matter of Team B not getting a chance to match Team A’s touchdown since the game would be over. No matter how you slice it, the loser of the coin flip is at a disadvantage.

Goodell supports a system that would retain the sudden death format, and I tend to agree with him. That’s why I like the blind bid idea that we’ve discussed at length on another post. It successfully devalues the initial possession (by using poor field position) so that sudden death can proceed as normal. Due to the sheer difficulty that some have in getting their heads around how the bidding process works (and how it devalues possession), I know that this idea will never come to fruition.

So this proposed change is better than nothing.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Correcting Bill Simmons, Part 6: Bill’s not-so-great NFL overtime idea

In his retro-diary of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, Bill Simmons explains his seemingly infallible NFL overtime idea.

9:25: Two straight first-down throws. Suddenly we’re on the Saints’ 36. I remember thinking, “Great, they’ll tie it, then whichever teams wins the coin toss will march down and score, and we’ll have to hear about how to fix overtime for the next nine months. Shoot me.”

(FYI: I know how to fix it. Win the toss and score a touchdown, game over. Make a field goal on the opening drive and the opponent gets one possession of its own. From there, sudden death rules. Find a hole in that idea. You can’t.)

Um, yes I can. Doesn’t his idea have the same problem as current system? The team that wins the toss still has the advantage. If Team A drives down and kicks a field goal, and Team B kicks its own field goal to tie the game, and now the game is decided by sudden death, doesn’t the team that gets the ball first (Team A) still have the advantage?

Sure, if Team A kicks a field goal, Team B has an opportunity to win the game with a touchdown, but they still are at a disadvantage if the game is tied after each team gets a possession. This isn’t fair, seeing as both teams were equally effective on their first overtime drive.

I like the blind bid idea. On a note card, each coach writes down the yard line at which he’s willing to take the ball, and whichever team that is willing to take the ball closest to its own goal line gets possession. Each team has an equal opportunity at possession and there is strategy involved. Do you have more faith in your offense or your defense? Would you rather take possession at your own 15-yard line or give the ball to to the other team at the 18-yard line?

It’s fair and fun.

Could the NFL use a silent auction to determine possession in overtime?

The New York Times recently discussed how the NFL would be better served if it changed its overtime format from sudden death to something more fair.

One idea drummed up (although not by the NY Times, but by a Packers fan named Chris Quanbeck) was to have a silent auction between the two head coaches to determine field possession.

Quanbeck’s idea was to auction off possession of the ball in the natural currency of the game: field position. The team that was willing to begin closest to its own goal line would receive the privilege of possession.

Quanbeck and his brother Andrew described several auction options. Here’s the one that seems most realistic:

3). Silent Auction
Each coach writes down a yard-line at which they would elect to start their offense. The numbers are given to the referee in sealed envelopes; whichever coach picked the lower yard-line wins the auction and get the ball first. The game plays out in sudden death.

Fairness and drama — those are two requisites of any sport. As with the N.F.L.’s replay challenges and tennis’s Hawk-Eye challenges, the auction system aims for a more just conclusion but also to make it more appealing to fans. The sealed bids add strategy and suspense. They would lead to more second-guessing of coaches, which would be more fun for everybody except coaches (which is why it will be difficult to get this through the competition committee).

But how can this not be better for the league and its fans?

While the New York Times agrees that this is a great idea, I think this would be absolutely ridiculous. If we’re going to do all this, why not just keep the freaking coin toss? Why make this be a guessing game between the coaches, who have better things to worry about (i.e. trying to win a football game) then to try and figure out what the other coach will be writing down?

Why doesn’t the NFL just have the team mascots run around the field once and race for which team will get first possession in overtime? Or better yet, if the league is looking for more drama, why don’t we have the cheerleaders strip at midfield and the fans can vote on which team should be award first possession? I hate to crap on this guy’s idea, but aren’t we getting a little ridiculous here?

The NFL needs to either keep the current sudden death formula or adopt the college football format where each team gets at least one possession. Anything else would be too involved and seem unnecessary.

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