CFN Analysis - Overtime
The New NFL Version vs. College
Because of the way the college football higher-ups have screwed up the
BCS and the way the national champion is determined, it's easy to assume
that most of the progressive changes are going to be nutty, weird and
wrong. However, they got the overtime system right.
I fully admit that I first screamed and yelled about it being too
gimmicky, but after a few tweaks if has become exciting, relatively
quick, and most of all, fair. Yeah, I wish the the teams had to start at
the 40 and had to always go for two rather than an extra point, but
whatever; the college overtime system works.
The NFL will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER admit that a college
rule is better (trust me, I know this from the inside). The college
replay system is so much more efficient and so much more right and fair
to everyone on both sides that it's laughable, and it's a weekly
embarrassment to the NFL to have such a faulty and ineffective system in
place. The rule that a receiver only needs to get one foot in (like it
is in college) instead of two also makes far more sense, especially for
a league that does everything possible to emphasize the passing game.
And now, once again, the NFL can't see what the right thing to do is
because it's thinking too hard and won't admit that college football has
come up with a great way of doing something.
By going with the idea that a playoff game will end in overtime on a
touchdown from Team A, without Team B getting a shot, while Team B would
get a turn if Team A scored a field goal, is bizarre at worst, and
unfair at best. If the basic idea was to eliminate the fluke factor of
the coin toss, then eliminate the fluke factor of the coin toss.
What if it's a 45-45 shootout with both offenses humming on all
cylinders? Does the coin toss not still mean everything? How about if a
game ended on a fluky slip by a defensive back leading to a 75-yard
touchdown? Or what about if the Team B defense simply isn't able to stop
Team A on the opening possession? Making matters even worse, and more
realistic, what happens when both teams trade field goals? Then it's
back to square one and it's back to the old rules with the coin toss
NFL, let's make this really easy for you. Just use the college overtime
system. Both teams get an equal shot, it's fair, you're not taxing the
players like you do with your current set up, and it eliminates the flip
of a coin as much as possible. Give it the old college try.
The NFL took a step in the right direction when it changed its playoff overtime rules, increasing the likelihood that both teams will get their hands on the ball at least once in the extra session. It's a long-overdue and blatantly logical move, but not one that college football needs to emulate. You see, at the amateur level, both teams already get a crack at scoring in a more equitable system that dilutes the importance of a silly coin toss. Whether it's heads or tails, both schools will get exactly the same number of possessions, which just makes good common sense.
Of course, that's not to suggest that college football has cornered the market on overtime rules. Hardly. It has a wacky, Arena League-like feel to it that could stand a little tinkering. For those who forgot, all overtime possessions begin at the opposing team's 25-yard line, which is already in field goal range for most of the country's kickers. It's a nonsensical rule that unfairly puts the backs of defenses against the wall and changes the tenor of a game. Still, it's digestible and a neat way to avoid ties and ridiculously long games, but can we move the starting line back a few yards and give the defense a fighting chance to prevent points? If the college game could simply start overtime possessions at, say, the 40-yard line, it would take a questionable system and make it a whole lot better. Just like the NFL owners did this week.
1) College football should pay its players (over, not under, the table), but since we're not there yet, the sport has no business putting athletes through any more of a grind than what already exists. The sport is well served by the current overtime format, especially the provision that teams must go for two in the third overtime. This reduces strain on the young men who play this sport for our immense enjoyment and yet are cut out of the enormous financial windfalls they in fact generate.
There's only one thing the overtime format needs in college football: Move the ball to at least the 35 and ideally the 50 for each drive (but no further than midfield). A team should have to get at least positive yardage and, even more appropriately, one first down before it can get into comfortable field goal range. It's rather absurd to know that a team can lose eight yards in overtime and still score if it has a stud kicker. That's not football; moreover, that's not a system which rewards excellence and promotes quality. College football overtimes can't become pure kicking contests, battles of 37-yard field goals from the left hash.
In light of the opinions expressed above, college football could move to a more aggressive way of deciding ties. If the 25-yard line remains in place as the starting point for drives, why not ban field goals until the third overtime, when the mandatory two-point try is in effect? Why not consider another possibility, such as requiring a team to gain one first down before being allowed to attempt a field goal? Because coaches chicken out and kick PATs in the first and second overtimes, it makes sense to re-regulate overtimes in ways that will encourage coaches to settle the issue more quickly.
2) NFL, why is it that a safety can win a game in overtime but a field goal can't? Why is it that one set of OT rules exists for the regular season while another exists for the playoffs? Should the NBA have seven-minute overtime periods for playoff games? Should baseball allow only two outs if a World Series game goes into extra innings? The whole point of revising the overtime rules was to ensure that both teams get a crack at the ball. It's the college game which should be particularly conscious of the need to avoid overextending players, since they don't get paid… openly.