March 17, 2010
There's been more of a hue and cry about overtime in the NFL since ... well, since just about the time the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game in the fifth period and sent Brett Favre(notes) back to Mississippi to torture us all for another offseason. While I don't believe there would be such sustained media outrage about this issue had Favre played in Super Bowl XLIV, the point is still valid -- a system that rewards the team that gets the luck of a coin toss to a disproportionate degree needs to be altered. At the owner's meetings next week, the league will vote on a different system. Today, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay outlined what will be going before the owners -- a proposal (now for the postseason only) that would give the opposing team a possession if the first team only kicks a field goal in the extra period.
If both teams exchange field goals, sudden death rules will then go into effect.
Sure -- this has nothing at all to do with Favre. Really!
"In the past, people have been quick to say that our system works very well and why would we change it," McKay said. "In this case, we just try to make a statistical argument that the time may have come to innovate a little bit when it comes to overtime and there's a reason statistically to do so. But it will be interesting to see when we get to that discussion.
"Let's look at it statistically," he continued. "It's pretty clear there's been a change. When sudden death was [implemented] in 1974, it clearly worked very well. 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. 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 [advantage] of the switch is it tries to rebalance the advantage that's been gained since '94 based on field goal accuracy being greatly improved, [and] 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."
24 votes are required to pass the resolution, and everyone will come to this with their own agenda. The union will lobby to avoid two-possession overtimes because of the increased chance of injury. The same gadflies who have been telling you, post-Favre OT loss, that the single-possession overtime is pure distilled evil, will continue their haranguing. I'm in favor of the proposal in that it devalues the field goal as a single-strike method of winning without the other team getting a chance to retort. There are other things that need addressing (hello, officiating consistency?), but since this is seen as the NFL's major problem at this time -- and I have a pretty good idea why -- the league might as well get it out of the way.
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