Inside The Bills

Why NFL overtime could see change

Posted by Chris Brown on March 17, 2010 – 3:24 pm

With the NFL’s Competition Committee set to bring new rule proposals to the table at the league meetings next week, the one getting the most attention is the change to the league’s overtime.

Atlanta Falcons team President Rich McKay heads up the Competition Committee confirmed the new overtime proposal will be presented, but only for postseason use.

“We will propose a rule on the modification of the sudden death procedure in overtime,” McKay said in a conference call Wednesday. “We will say that we would like to have it where there would be an opportunity to possess in the event the first team with the ball does not score a touchdown.”

So if the team that wins the coin toss and possesses the ball first only kicks a field goal, their opponent would have an opportunity for a possession as well. The main reason this was the route the Competition Committee chose was due to the dramatic rise in the percentage of first possession overtime victories by way of a field goal over the past 35 years.

McKay cited the following statistics. From 1974 (when overtime was instituted) to 1993 there was a dead even split between teams that won the coin toss and teams that lost the coin toss. Teams that won the coin toss during that span won the game 46.8% of the time. Teams that lost the coin toss won the game 46.8% of the time.

But the Competition Committee found that from 1994-2009 the teams that won the coin toss during that span won the game 59.8% of the time and teams that lost the coin toss won the game only 35.8% of the time.

That’s a 13 percent shift in the numbers making what was once a dead even number going off the coin toss into a 20 percent edge to the team that’s winning the coin toss.

McKay says the edge was caused mainly by the improved kicking percentage of today’s kickers from long distance and the improved field position for receiving teams with kickoffs taking place at the 30-yard line instead of where kickoffs used to be, which was the 35.

So by not allowing overtime games to end when the team with first possession kicks a field goal, the Competition Committee is hoping to even those percentages again between the team that wins and loses the coin toss.

Whether it encourages teams with the first possession to go for it instead of trying to kick a field goal remains to be seen. I would think if you have a team with a dominant defense, you would still kick the field goal and rely on your defense to stop the opponent when they get their possession. Beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

McKay also clarified that if the team that has the ball first kicks a FG and the other team (under this rule) gets their possession and kicks a FG, then it’s pure sudden death after that. First team to score next wins.

What do you think of this proposal?

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