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Doug Farrar

NFL owners pass new overtime change by overwhelming margin

Doug Farrar
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On Tuesday at the 2010 Owners' Meetings, the NFL passed a new alteration to the overtime rule, which will give one team a chance to score even if the opposing team scores by way of a field goal in "sudden death". If that first team scores a touchdown on first possession, the game would be over, but if both teams exchange field goals, actual sudden death, with the first team to score winning, would then occur. Teams voted the new change in by a margin of 28-4 for a postseason-only modification, but it's entirely possible that in the next meetings in May, the rule could get the required 24 votes to be implemented on a full-time basis.

While some assumed that the results of the NFC Championship game, in which the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings with an overtime field goal and thus denied Brett Favre(notes) his "rightful" Super Bowl berth, the Vikings were one of four teams to actually vote against the change. According to Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay, the real issue was fairness, and the overwhelming increase in the percentages of field goal accuracy in recent years.

"From '74 to '93, in that time period, you had literally a 50/50 split between those that won the toss and those that lost the toss," McKay said on March 17. "Those that won, won 46.8 percent of the time and those that lost won 46.8 percent of the time. So it was a system that worked very well. Changes occurred over time. Now the numbers have changed pretty dramatically. Now the team that wins the toss wins 59.8% and the team that loses the toss wins 38.5%. The pros of the switch is it tries to rebalance the advantage that's been gained since '94 based on field goal accuracy being greatly improved, field position being improved.

"So I would say to you that there are advocates who will say that we're trying to put in a system that emphasizes more skill and more strategy in overtime as opposed to the randomness of the coin flip. Those on the other side will tell you it works pretty well, it's exciting, and there's an opportunity for less plays, and that is an important product that's needed in overtime. That's one of the reasons we proposed it for postseason only because historically the postseason has averaged about 1.2 overtime games, and the regular season has averaged about 15.8. That's why we started with the postseason proposal."

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan predictably brought his own spin to the new rule, stating that he might kick off in an overtime scenario and let his stellar defense define the game and then cap off a victory with an offensive possession. Dallas Texans running back Abner Haynes, who famously said, "We'll kick to the clock" to begin overtime of the 1962 AFL Championship, and former Detroit Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg, who once insisted that he'd take the wind in OT, now look like futuristic visionaries, years ahead of their time.

Or something like that.

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