The National Football League and its owners voted to approve a proposal to revise the league’s postseason overtime format.  The Competition Committee recommended the revision to the 32 NFL owners on Monday, at the NFL Annual Meetings in Orlando. The new format is a revision of the former sudden death rules in the postseason. Instead, if the team that wins the toss proceeds to make a field goal on its first drive, the other team would get the ball.  And if that team also makes a field goal on the ensuing drive, the present sudden-death format would then be in place.  However, if the team that wins the toss scores a touchdown, the game is over and the opposing offense never gets to step on the field.  Regular season sudden death remains unchanged.

What the committee has in mind would enhance the chances of each team having a possession in a postseason overtime period.  It is a good first step toward addressing the problem that the league would like to avoid: a Super Bowl being decided on the flip of a coin. The new format would apply only to the postseason, evidence that avoiding embarrassment on sports’ biggest stage is really the only reason changing the OT format in the first place.

The revision needed a majority vote of 24 votes, and team owners voted 28-4 in favor of making the change.

In regular season games only from 1994-2009, the team that won the toss had a winning percentage of .598, the team that lost the coin toss had a winning percentage of .385. Games ended in a tie 1.7% of the time.  These statistics show one clear fact immediately: the team that wins the coin toss has had an advantage in the last 15 years.

Prior to 1974, an NFL regular-season game tied at the end of regulation time ended as a tie. Sudden-death overtime was used only in playoff games.  The last time a change to the format was made was in 1974, when the NFL adopted the 15-minute sudden death format for the regular season.

The new format is a step in the right direction in avoiding a Super Bowl or a Conference championship coin toss, and having the losing team never step onto the field. Some owners see this as making sudden death even better, and argue that the old rule wasn’t producing the fairest result. But, as long as there still is a chance that a game could end on a single possession, the “problem” isn’t fully be fixed. Many pundits feel that the overtime system wasn’t a problem at all, and didn’t see the need the fix something that wasn’t even broken to begin with.  Sudden death overtime is the most exciting thing in all of sports. This “modified sudden death” will take away the full life-or-death factor, but a team could still win on one possession.  The committee wants to increase the chances of each team having a possession in OT, not guarantee each team a possession. Like it has historically done, the NFL has met in the middle of the two beliefs and compromised.  I did not expect a 28-4 vote, and I think many others expected differently as well.

I feel as though the NFL should have made a revision to the regular season overtime format as well.  There should be continuity in the rules from the regular season to the postseason. I wanted to keep the overtime in a sudden death format, but this revision still has “sudden death” as an option.  We’ll have to wait and see next year, or maybe longer, to see how this plays out.

Any thoughts? Did the NFL need to make this change?

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