Green Bay Packers

Midweek Musings: NFL’s new overtime rules well overdue

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The Green Bay Packers‘ playoff fate may no longer come down a coin flip.

The NFL announced last week that owners had approved a modification to playoff overtime games, which both teams are now guaranteed a possession.

Previously, both teams were guaranteed a possession unless the first team with the ball reached the end zone.

Conversation around the fairness of playoff overtimes were front and center following a thrilling AFC divisional game in January, which the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills without the latter touching the ball after regulation.

This discussion dates back several years. Similar arguments were made after the 2019 NFC Wild Card, 2018 AFC Championship, Super Bowl LI, and a pair of heartbreaking Packers losses in 2014 and 2015.

Aaron Rodgers should touch the ball in OT. Patrick Mahomes should touch the ball. Josh Allen … Matt Ryan … Drew Brees … The list goes on.

Those exclaiming for new rules finally got their wish last week, when NFL owners approved new playoff overtime rules that guarantee a possession to both teams.

Of course, no rule change is received with universal acclaim. Vocal critics believe this new rule is an excuse to place further spotlight and importance on the quarterbacks (I mean yeah, duh) and exemplifies the waning consequence of team defense.

Football purists understandably shake their fists at the undeniable favoritism toward offense. A week after the Bills lost to the Chiefs, they gestured toward the Cincinnati Bengals performance in the AFC championship, and how the Bengals pulled off a win despite losing the overtime coin flip.

Because it was the defense that stood up and made a play.

Point taken. But as Peter King (and many others) wisely wrote, if the previous playoff format was truly a 50-50 proposition, why does every coin-toss winner pick the ball over defense?

Amazingly, despite being one of the most successful businesses in the world, the NFL has its fair share of gaffes. But to blame the NFL, via this new overtime rule, for the emasculation of pure football is missing the mark.

Truth be told, when it comes to this overtime shift, the NFL is well behind the curve.

Many pro football fans who have a moonlight interest in college know the latter already adopted similar OT rules in the 1990s. In college, each team is guaranteed a possession at the opposition’s 25-yard line. The team with more points after one possession wins.

If the score remains tied after one series, teams are required to attempt two-point conversations for the remaining “overtime” periods.

Did you know that high school football also uses such a format? The National Federation of High Schools, which governs most state high school sports associations in the U.S., has been using the college overtime format for years.

Wisconsin’s high school sports association, for example, adopted the college format in 2011.

No one is suggesting that the NFL mimic high school and college at every turn. But lower levels didn’t adopt these rules for TV ratings and quarterbacks, or to “appease the participation trophy generation.”

They did so because it was their judgement that this was the fairest way to determine a winner.

Could the NFL have been more creative, like adopting the “spot and choose” format proposed by the Ravens last year? Maybe, though it’s not surprising the league avoided such a radical change.

And of course there are certainly quibbles worth having about the chosen route (like whether it’s really that great a burden to implement these overtime rules in the regular season as well).

What the NFL did right, though, is ensure that all phases for each team have a say in the final outcome in overtime.

Ultimately that’s the truest path to determining a winner, and the NFL — for once — should be commended for addressing an antiquated rule.

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