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How to Fix the Overtime Rules so Peyton Manning Always Wins

McKay said Wednesday that the Competition Committee has not recommended a change to the overtime format – another hot topic this season because of what happened in a Chargers game.

Many fans and media have been agog since the Chargers won the overtime coin toss and drove for a TD to beat the Colts in the Wild Card round in January. A vocal segment of those groups believe there should be a change in the sudden-death format. According to McKay, coaches and players polled did not agree.

According to McKay, 63 percent of overtime games in 2008 were won by teams that won the coin flip to start the period, with 43 percent of those games won on the opening possession.

“There are statistics that concern us,” McKay said. “At the same time, we don't think there is enough support to change it.”

San Diego Union Tribune - March 19, 2008

I've been thinking about the overtime rules and all the hubbub that came about because Peyton Manning didn't get a chance to win the game in overtime. My first reaction is blow it off. I've always liked the NFL overtime rule and the idea of sudden death. I do think that most of this stink is just because the media's favorite QB didn't get a chance to win the game and the unloved Chargers moved to the next round the playoffs while Peyton the endorser went home. So, I'm happy that when the NFL meets this coming week, they won't be changing the OT rules at all.

However, it is possible that change is coming in the next few years, so I want to get my 2 cents in now.

Read on after the jump for descriptions and breakdowns of the options.

I admit that the current system is a bit unfair. However, I don't want a new system that just slightly reduces the unfairness or moves it around a little. I want a system that is as close to fair as possible, or I want stick with what we've got. I read an article by Peter King at SI where said you could tell the current system was weighted too much in favor of the team that won the toss because the team that won the toss always chooses to receive the ball. While not a perfect measuring stick, it's not bad. No matter how good your defense is and how bad your offense is, no team ever chooses to put their defense out there first. I've been thinking of other things that would quickly point out that any proposed system is still too unfair.

One way to identify if a system is unfair is to see how many unusual things happen. For instance, in a normal game circumstance, if your team was driving effortlessly down the field to the opponents 20 yard line, and then they stopped and kicked a field goal on 1st down, you would think that was unusual. If that happened at any point in the game except when time was about to expire you would think it was strange. Yet this happens all the time in overtime games. The game is put in the hands of an undersized soccer player when it is at its most critical juncture and it doesn't need to be.

Another way to identify if a system is unfair is to see if one side has a significant decision making advantage over the other. I think this sort of problem is present in most system where they force at least two possessions. Here is my example: If the first team has the ball and they have driven (drove?) down the field to their opponent's 20 yard line. Then they face 4th and 10 from the 20. Obviously, they will chose to kick a field goal. Now the other team gets the ball and drives down to their opponent's 20 yard line. They now face 4th and 10 from the 20. Down by three, they will also kick a field goal. But suppose for a moment that the first team had actually scored a touchdown instead of a field goal. The second team now faces 4th and 10 from the 20. They will go for it because they know that a field goal does them no good. They have a significant advantage because they know what they have to get and it can significantly alter what they do at critical times. I think this is one of the fatal flaws of the college OT system and the "at least two possessions" NFL overtime rule.


1. Implement the college system: line up the offense at the 30 yard line (or wherever they do) and let them try and score. Then give the other team a shot. If one team ends up with more points they win, if not, repeat the two possessions until someone does. This is bad because not only does it give the second team a decision making advantage, it also removes special teams from the equation and tends to drag on and on. If the NFL were to implement this system, I might never watch overtime again.

2. Play a complete quarter, repeat until someone wins. Fair, very fair. But long and drawn out. I don't think the TV guys would go for it because we might not be able to see 60 minutes until Andy Rooney is on.

3. Move up the kick offs. The idea being that teams typically end up with a short fields and just need a couple first downs to be in field goal range. Moving the kick offs up would give the team a longer field, and they might need 4 first downs to get in field goal range. Not bad, but I don't think it ends the current system's unfairness, it just kind of shifts it a bit. It doesn't solve the problem enough by itself, but it could be used in conjunction with other options. I do like how it preserves the sudden death part of overtime.

4. Each offense gets at least one try on offense (Peter King's suggestion). Gives the second team a decision making advantage. Plus it fails King's own test of fairness. He said you could tell the current system was unfair because everyone chose to receive the ball. In his system everyone would chose to kick off, so they could get the ball second. Doesn't seem to significantly improve the fairness.

5. You have to score at least 4 points to win in Sudden Death. I like this one the best. You can't win on the first possession with a field goal. If you do kick a field goal, the other team might get a touchdown and win. Two field goals and you can win, I'm OK with that. Two safeties wins also. If you get the ball first and march down the field and score a TD without letting the opponent's offense on the field, you deserve to win.

6. Outlaw the kicker in overtime. You can still kick field goals, but maybe your QB kicks them. I'm sure some of these guys were kickers in High School and could handle the job. Kicking field goals with your QB (or maybe NT :-) would be a lot more uncertain and would need to be from closer in. Overall, it would discourage the field goal except as a last resort. I like it, and it fits in with my philosophy that kickers have too much influence in the game and their influence should be reduced.