Shutdown Corner - NFL

No one seems to be satisfied with the NFL’s current “Win the coin toss, get the football” overtime system. I’ve been against changing it, though, mainly because I haven’t heard any ideas that I’ve liked better. Until today, anyway.

The Fifth Down brought to my attention a beautiful system that involves strategy, rewards the boldest head coach, does not lengthen the game, keeps the basic structure of a football game intact, and, perhaps most importantly, leaves no one with any room to whine.

Here’s how it would go. The sudden death system stays in place, and the first team to score still wins the game. If that happens on the first possession, so be it. That's still the same.

However, we throw out the coin toss, and in its place, to determine which team gets the football first, we have a silent auction.

Each coach writes down the yard-line at which they’d be willing to accept the ball, and they put their bid in a sealed envelope. Both coaches hand the envelopes to an official at midfield, and the coach who’s written down the least advantageous yard-line gets the ball, at the yard-line he's written down.

So, for example, say the Steelers and Cardinals are going to overtime. Naturally, both teams want the ball first. Mike Tomlin would like the ball, but he wouldn’t mind putting the responsibility on his great defense, either, so he writes down “22 yard-line.” But Ken Whisenhunt is willing to take more of a risk, trusts his offense more, and he’s written down “11 yard-line.”

So we start overtime with the Cardinals having possession of the ball, first and 10 at their own 11. The Cards have the ball, but they’ve got quite a bit of work to do to get into field goal range. The Steelers defense has them in a tough spot, and if they do their job, the Steelers get the ball in good field position.

If Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t like that, he shouldn’t have been willing to take the ball at the 11. If Mike Tomlin doesn’t like not getting the ball first, he should have been willing to start from deeper than his own 22.

I think it’s brilliant. Perhaps some will bristle at the thought of a silent auction, a term more traditionally associated with vintage cars or estate sales, but I really think it’s perfect here. The randomness of the coin toss is eliminated, and instead, the reward goes to the coach who makes the best football decision.

The plan was dreamt up in 2003 by a fellow named Chris Quanbeck, but today’s the first I’ve heard of it. They wrote to the league about it, and NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira expressed some interest, but nothing ever came of it.

Maybe a bit more publicity will help, so this is me, doing my part. Really give it some thought, NFL. This is the best system, and I think it’s something fans would eventually grow to love.

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