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What other ways can the NFL structure overtime in the playoffs?

Now that the rule has been adjusted, does it solve the problem or is there a better way?

NFL: JAN 23 AFC Divisional Round - Bills at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the NFL announced last week they were modifying the overtime rules for the postseason, both myself and Geoffrey Benedict had a lot of thoughts on the subject. Joining together for the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, we tackled the topic in a number of different ways.

First, Geoffrey laid out the numbers in doing away with overtime altogether during the regular season. Calculating new standings based on all overtime games instead ending in a tie, the results were quite fascinating. Geoffrey used this information which was published at Behind The Steel Curtain in the following article:

Whether or not you agree with Geoffrey‘s idea of not bothering going to overtime in the regular season, there needs to be an overtime plan in place for the postseason. Once we identified the most important issues that we want out of overtime, the ideas started to flow. Luckily, we really only considered serious ideas unlike the one satirical response I offered yesterday of a head coach dance-off:

The first thing in making sure the current overtime rules are accomplished, or while considering other options, is to set the main goals the league wants to achieve. Obviously the point of overtime is to determine a winner. But how do they go about it? What other qualifications do they want to meet?

For Geoffrey and I, we felt that these two items were the most important in determining a method for overtime in the NFL:

1. Minimizing the effect of the coin flip

2. Playing something that mirrors an actual football game

The first item is something I feel is extremely important. I do not want the result of a coin flip to be a factor in determining a winner. On too many occasions when teams go to overtime, the overwhelming feeling is the team who wins the toss instantly has an advantage. Any advantage a team has should be something coming from play on the field, not the result of a coin. If the coin flip must stay involved, it should be minimized to a point where deciding what to do as a result of winning the flip is highly debatable.

As for doing something that resembles real football, teams should be performing something that would be a realistic scenario during the course of regulation in a football game. For example, the college rules have each team starting at the 25-yard line. In what scenario would a team be forced to only defend 25 yards without something occurring which was a direct result of what they did on the field?

Yes, there could be times where a defense has to defend a short field, but it’s because something else occurred which put their team in that scenario. Whether it be the offense giving up a turnover or special teams surrendering a big return, the team is ultimately responsible for being put in a bad situation. In college overtime, defenses are already put at the disadvantage with nothing their team did to set it up that way. Football was meant to be played 100 yards from end zone to end zone, and part of that game is utilizing all aspects of your team to gain any field position advantage possible.

With these items prioritized, Geoffrey and I had some ideas which could be used in combination. Our first idea was to get rid of the coin toss. How would we do that? It would be done in this way:

Go straight into overtime just like the end of the third-quarter

In other words, if the clock hits 0:00 at the end of the game and the score is tied, the teams head to their sidelines like the end of the first or third quarter, they switch ends of the field, and overtime begins with the same down and distance in which the fourth quarter ended.

Handling overtime in this way would definitely change the strategy on how a team plays the end of a game. Knowing they are going into overtime, teams would be less likely to take a knee and waste a down, or kick an unreasonably long field goal.

By handling overtime in this way, it has completely eliminated the very first problem outlined above eliminating the coin flip. Instead, game circumstances determine who possesses the ball first in overtime.

If the NFL went to the style of overtime, there are multiple ways to handle how to end the game. With the current rules now having each team get a possession regardless of if they scored a field goal or touchdown, it would not be necessary in this setup. Instead it could be one of the following two outlines:

Play a set amount of time

As something proposed by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, he prefers overtime not end on a score but be a set amount of time in which the score would need to no longer be tied at the end. The exact amount of time to play overtime could be debatable. It could be a full 15 minutes where it’s like another quarter. It could also be the 10 minutes they currently use during the regular season. I would even go as low as 7.5 minutes which has teams playing half of a quarter. But doing it this way, regardless of the time, overtime would play the full amount regardless of the number of scores.

True sudden death

If the coin flip has been eliminated and game scenarios dictate the team possessing the ball to start overtime, it truly could go to a sudden death situation. With giving both teams a position under the current format, it is simply done because of the effect of the coin toss. If it’s not there, it could be a true sudden death scenario if that’s what the league felt was best.

So what do you think? Do you think these ideas would be a better way of doing overtime in the NFL? Is there something else that’s more important than minimizing the coin toss? Is keeping the game as much like regulation not an issue? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

For a full discussion on the effect of overtime and other options the NFL should consider, check out Geoffrey Benedict and Dave Schofield on this week’s Steelers Stat Geek podcast: