NFL Overtime

Okay, let’s resolve the debate once and for all:

What is the fairest / best way to structure an NFL overtime?

I say it is the current sudden death format. The statistics back me up, with the winner of the coin toss winning 53% of the time. The slight advantage is almost certainly from offense-only teams (like this year’s Broncos) occasionally going to overtime and losing the coin toss.

Defense-only teams like the 2000 Ravens wouldn’t care about a coin toss. Balanced teams like last year’s Giants wouldn’t care either. (Losing the OT coin toss to the Packers didn’t hurt.)

Offense-only teams can’t even be assured a shot at the ball in overtime. And this is as it should be. Why anyone would want to help offense-only teams is a complete mystery to me. Send that shit over to the Arena League.

Anyway, offer your solution and explain why it’s better than the NFL’s.

Just wanted to put in another vote for sudden death before anyone suggests something “more (actually less) fair.”

I like the way they do overtime in college football. Coin flip decides the choice of offense or defense first. Each team guarranteed at least one possession. Offense gets the ball on the 25 yard line (I think), First and 10. They can get a first down, score a TD, or kick a FG. Other team then gets the ball under the same conditions. Starting on the third OT, teams must attempt a 2 point conversion after a TD.

I think it’s a fair deal because both offense and defense is important–not only do you have to score, but you have to stop the other team from scoring. Best of all, there are no ties.

I’m also partial to this as well. It also provides better TV.

The first problem is that this method eliminates special teams, which are a real part of the game that should not be ignored. But that’s minor compared to the main problem.

The other team does not get the ball under the same conditions, and it is not a fair deal.

The second team – the one that starts on defense – gets a decided advantage. Because the first team doesn’t know what they need, they will be more likely to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down. By contrast, the second team will know exactly what they need. If they need a TD, they will always go for it on fourth down, meaning their possession has four downs to other team’s three. That’s a decided advantage.

I am currently looking for a cite showing the percentage of time the team that starts on defense wins in the NCAA overtime format. I do not believe it will be as even as the NFL overtime stats.

In other words, any claim that the NCAA overtime format is more fair will require a cite showing the percentages.

I don’t think forcing the team that has scored to play defense is particularly fair, either. If a team scores at the end of the first half, the other team doesn’t get the ball and a new possession just to be fair- the half is just over.

So if you go first you always go for the TD. If you fail you are really no worse off, if you succeed then you force your opponent to have to go for a TD and 2-point conversion. Advantage to the first offense.

This is a flawed analysis.

The first team, aware of the second-possession advantage, decides to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a FG, but end up turning it over on downs. The second team now lines up and kicks the field goal for the win without having to run a single play on offense. How is that more fair?

I like it just the way it is.

Altough I think it’d be cool to replace the coin toss with an XFL-stye scramble for the ball.

I propose a fifth period (not really a quarter) that is eight minutes long, with possession determined by a coin toss, one timeout per team, and additional eight-minute segments until there is a victor at the end of a period. I understand the objection to a longer period of play – injuries and fatigue make the next week’s games harder on both teams – but I don’t have a problem with it. My approach forces teams to play football to win. You don’t want to go into OT? Push harder on fourth downs during the fourth quarter. Put the game away. Win decisively.

This also brings clock management (a key component of the game) back into focus. If necessary, I’m willing to adjust the length of the period to be statistically fair.

For example, if the team winning the coin-toss at the beginning of a game is 50% likely to be ahead 9:00 into the first quarter, but more or less likely to be ahead at 8:00, then make the additional period 9:00 long.

My preference would be to just play another quarter. Generally my preference in all sports is that extra time should just be a continuation; you shouldn’t decide who the better team in a sport is by playing something that isn’t that sport. I don’t really mind ties, so I’d be fine if regular season NFL games would not have OT and just count as ties, and postseason games run a full 5th quarter.

I wouldn’t think that the current NFL system is to the advantage of offense-only teams. It’s just that OT games with such teams are more likely to end on the first possession, so the coin toss is overvalued compared to other OT games.

The college format strikes me as fairly ridiculous, and one of those things that seems fair initially but is actually more unfair than the alternatives. A similar format is used in the CFL, and it’s even worse there. It also led to one of the all-time strangest football situations I’ve seen:

There was an OT game (Saskatchewan vs BC) on a day with a very strong wind. Sask had the ball first and failed to score. BC took possession on the 35, with the wind at their back. Since in the CFL you get a point for a punt through the end zone, they called a punt on first down, trying to win with the single. It actually failed, and they went on to lose.

What if you just eliminate the FG as a scoring option?

In trying to google up the stats for NCAA overtime games based on coin flips – which are remarkably absent compared to the plethora of those stats available for the NFL – I ran across an interesting idea that apparently did actually get pitched to the NFL.

There is no initial kickoff, but other than that it is a normal sudden death overtime. The winner of the coin flip gets to pick the relative yard line where the first possession starts. The loser of the coin flip then gets to pick which team gets first possession.

It’s far too geeky to actually implement, but there is some appeal to the idea.

That’s the same problem borschevsky just raised: by then you’re playing something that’s very different from the rest of the game.

So we’ve now eliminated all special teams from overtime. This means that the overtime winner will be decided based on aspects that aren’t reflective of how non-overtime games are decided, because special teams plays a large role in those.

If you eliminate all special teams from the game, then that would make more sense as an overtime format. But it doesn’t seem right to eliminate a huge part of the game.

It would be similar to saying “no running plays in overtime.” It just doesn’t make sense.

To start OT put the ball on the 50 and have the two owners line up on opposite 40s. Blow a whistle, they race for it and it’s a dodgeball competition. Whichever one hits the other first wins, unless they catch it in which case they win.

This way owners like Al Davis will never win an OT, yet they have no one to blame but themselves.

It would be good if we could keep the joke answers to a minimum in an effort to keep the signal:noise ratio high.

I found the NCAA overtime data, but it looks like I’ll have to crunch the numbers in Excel.

I like sudden death, but have a minor quibble. I think it was much fairer in the old days, when scoring was lower. Over the years the NFL has moved to a more offense oriented, higher scoring game; ie moving the kickoffs back, making passing easier, etc. At the same time the kicking games have vastly improved, making longer FGs possible and punters better able to pin teams deep. Doesn’t seem too hard in today’s game to return a KO to about the 30-35 (anyone have stats on average field position following a KO?), maybe get 1 1st down, then have your punter pin the other team inside their 20. 3 1st downs and your in FG range.

Maybe for OT return the KO spot to the 35 or 40, pretty much insuring the receiving team will start around their 20.

How about this…

Start with a kickoff. The receiving team gets a normal 2 minute drill to score any way it can. If the drive ends without a score, that drive is over. The offense then does a normal kickoff to the other team so the other team gets a 2 minute drill. Continue until you get a winner. The winner is the first team to score 6 points in OT.