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NFL Overtime? More like Blow-vertime

How’s that for a classy title?

I was going to write a quick movie review tonight of True Grit until I was listening to sports talk radio on the way home and apparently I didn’t pay enough attention when the new overtime rule came out after last season.  I caught the gist of it though, in that both teams are guaranteed a possession in OT unless the first possession involves the wind chill dropping below 20 degrees and an ostrich laying an egg at midfield before the entire cast of The Facts of Life does a conga line during a touchdown celebration.  Something along those lines.

The actual rules, and I hope I get this correct, are that whichever teams gets the ball first in overtime, if they kick a field goal, then the other team gets at least one possession to either tie or win the game.  And if the team that gets the ball first in overtime scores a touchdown on that opening drive, then the game ends and the other team does not get a chance to tie.

Sorry Favre, you'll have to stay on the sidelines for this overtime.

Does anyone out there think that makes the overtime better, because frankly, I’d rather a game be decided by seeing how low Tootie can get on the limbo bar.

Backing up a second, this was all brought about by the hopefully-soon-to-be-ex-NFL golden-boy, Brett “#4 inches” Favre. Who by the way, if he comes out of retirement one more time, I’m officially putting all my weight behind the USFL, the Arena League, the XFL and whatever that terrible Tiny Football League thing is that they kept putting on our TVs during NBC’s halftime of Sunday Night games.  Anyway, Favre was visibly upset after last year’s NFC Championship game when the Saints got the ball first in overtime, marched down the field, kicked a field goal and put an end to Brett Favre’s career…whoops, almost.  Assuming Favre does retire, his last three plays of the last seasons would have ended with an interception to end the NFC Championship (2008 vs. Giants), an interception to force overtime in last year’s NFC Championship, and tasting the hard concrete field at University of Minnesota and being concussed in the process.

Of course, this whole changing of the OT rules could have been avoided had Favre actually not thrown that terrible interception at the end of regulation with his team seemingly in field goal range.  For a refresher, here’s a fun montage of Vikings fans getting upset…not sure what the last guy is doing to his fireplace though.

Here’s the problem, they’re fixing something that isn’t broke.  If my math is correct, only 53% of teams that win the coin toss in overtime actually win the game.  I’m not sure if that accounts for Marty Mornhinweg’s brilliant decision back in 2002, when he was head coach of the Detroit Lions, and chose to kickoff when he won the coin toss because he wanted the wind at his back instead of getting the ball first.  Of course the opposing team scored a field goal on that first drive.  Keep that in mind Cleveland Browns fans when hearing that Marty is interviewing for your vacant head coaching position (and his 5-27 career record).

Also, in the playoffs, the team that wins the coin toss is 13-14 overall.  A losing record!!!  So apparently it was imperative to change the rules, why?  The one thing I always enjoyed about the NFL is how much it differentiates itself from college football’s stupid rules – like being ruled down without contact, one foot needed for a catch, no playoff system, allowing Joe Paterno to coach Weekend At Bernie’s-style.  All that plus the NFL doesn’t have a crazy overtime setup that can easily go on multiple overtimes.

Hey Bernie, we're out of ice!

Let’s keep things simple, put the onus on the defense to hold the opposing team from getting into field goal range.  They say defense win games, so this is the way to prove it.

If the NFL is hell bent on giving both teams a possession, then fine, so be it, except why have the added rule that if that first team scores a touchdown, the game is over?  Let the other team try to score a touchdown as well, it’ll make for some interesting final plays.  Another concern is how this ultimately affects strategy.  Say your team wins the coin toss, goes down field and has first and goal from the 10.  In years past, coaches would maybe run one play to get the ball in the middle of the field for their kicker and then kick on 2nd down to end the game.  Now, coaches are going to think that maybe if they try to score a touchdown the game will end, but at the risk of throwing an interception or a sack-fumble.  Coaches have a cheat sheet of when to go for a two-point conversion, but will a cheat sheet be available for them to know when to kick a field goal?

And what about Matt Hasselbeck?  Surely making his last playoff appearance as an NFL quarterback, say the Seahawks somehow take the Saints into overtime and he reprises his famous “we want the ball and we’re gonna score” mantra from the 2005 playoffs, except this time he doesn’t throw a game-ending interception and instead leads the ‘Hawks to score a field goal.  Does Drew Brees then get to say that he wants the ball and they’re gonna score?  It’s going to be a confusing mess.  Plus shouldn’t we be more concerned with the 7-9 Seahawks in the playoffs and the 10-6 Giants and Bucs (both who whooped the Seahawks this year) out of the playoffs?  That’s a whole other mess that will probably be overly-corrected this offseason.

Anyway, True Grit was a great movie, maybe I’ll tell you about it someday soon, but for now, I’ll just take the good and take the bad, take them both and there you have, the facts of life.


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