The issue of changing the overtime rule has surfaced yet again. But it appears that the Competition Committee is reluctant to put forth any kind of rule change at the annual meeting scheduled for this week. According to Rich McKay, co-chairman of the committee, the owners and players are entrenched in keeping the coin flip/sudden death system in place.
Marvin Lewis, a member of the competition committee, does not want to see the overtime rules change. He cites in the article on Bengals.com the fact that the token tie last season against the Philadelphia Eagles as being too long and that the risk of injury is greater in overtime. Plus, with a short week, it makes things difficult. I feel these reasons for not making a change that will benefit the game are flawed. Here's why.
First, it may have been the longest game in Bengals history, but should there not have been a winner or loser in that game? There have been NFL games that have lasted longer than the Eagles game. This is the only sport where in the United States, after playing overtime, ties are acceptable (soccer excluded). Even NASCAR has a form of overtime to ensure a proper winner is decided, no matter how long they have been racing. The NHL has devised a system to decide overtime games with the shootout. College football has had games that went an additional 6 overtimes ending much later than planned. College basketball just had a 6 overtime marathon that added an additional 30 minutes of actual playing time. If it takes more time to decide the game, find a way that will be effective and entertaining.
Second, the risk of injury of is greater whenever a player takes the field. It is also greater when a player gets up in the morning, drives to the stadium for practice, and even during practice. How many players have been hurt in practice? Too many to even fathom at times. What a number of the critics fail to realize is this - everyday life brings a greater chance of injury. So do we dare not continue our daily activities because of the fear of injury?
Third, short weeks make things difficult for all parties. In making this comment, is Coach Lewis concerned that the extra time that can be used finishing the game be the difference maker? What could possibly occur during that time that would have an impact on the upcoming game? Now I have never been in a NFL locker room after a game, but I could surmise that what occurs is that the players are getting ready to head home to get a good night's sleep. I do not expect them to be watching film or literally be on the practice field until the next day.
Coming into the season since the '74 switch to overtime, 53 percent of the teams that won the coin toss won the game, but only 29.5 percent of those wins were on the first possession. Although recent history shows that the percentages are low that the receiving team will score on their first possession, but because of recent history (63 percent won coin toss, 43 won on first possession) I believe there should be some changes to the overtime rule. I don't like the sudden death portion of this rule and firmly believe that each team should have a chance if the receiving team scores first. If the opposing team is able to tie, then they play until one team finally outscores the other. The college football overtime has added a sense of excitement that the NFL has yet to match.
The only bonus for which a tie is good is in the standings, which effects where a team might finish. The Bengals and Browns finished with 4 wins each; however because the Bengals tied the Eagles they finished a half game ahead of the Browns to finish third in the standings. If the Bengals had been in a playoff hunt last season, the tie may have had an impact as to whether they made it or not.
The NFL has been very lucky that no Super Bowl has ever gone into overtime, but consider if the Bengals (some may say I'm dreaming) were make the Super Bowl but lose in overtime without getting a chance to match the oppositions score - I personally would be screaming at the top of my lungs that they deserve a chance. I know, the rules are the rules, but to add a sense of fairness, just as all other major US sports, the sudden death rule should be eliminated.