By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL continues to want to tinker with overtime.
The latest set of rule proposals included three separate rule changes focused on the overtime period. None of these have been enacted. Owners will vote on them later in the offseason. But clearly, overtime remains an area that the league is intent on reshaping — if not this year, then certainly in the future.
Here are the three proposals. We’ll take them one-by-one, going from extremely simple to unnecessarily complicated.
1. Eliminate overtime in the preseason.
This one is as basic as it gets. There’s barely any reason for a fourth quarter in the preseason, so there’s definitely no reason to ever play an overtime. Nobody should oppose this … unless there is a carnival-like proposal to replace overtime. Say, having kickers rapidly boot 10 footballs on tees from the 50-yard line toward opposite goalposts, with the most successful kicker winning the whole damn game for his team. Or having punters compete to see who can boot the ball higher into the upper deck. Or … OK, fine, I’ll stop. (I could have gone all day, for the record.)
But, well, yeah. Get rid of overtime in the preseason. The fact that it ever existed is a bit baffling.
2. Replace overtime kickoffs with choice to spot the ball anywhere on the field, or pick offense or defense. AKA the “Spot And Choose” format.
I just wrote that sentence myself, and even I don’t fully get it. This proposal is here to throw your head into a blender, push the “liquefy” setting, and leave it running for several minutes. But let’s work through it together.
The idea is that instead of a kickoff and the rule where a touchdown ends the game and a field goal keeps it going, the game will take on a true sudden death factor, with coaches having to really strategize.
Instead of choosing to kick or receive, the team that wins the toss will choose one of two options.
A) Place the football anywhere on the field, and decide which goal to defend.
B) Choose to play offense or defense.
The winner of the toss chooses first. The loser chooses the other “privilege,” as it is so described.
So, if Team A wins the toss and elects to place the ball at the 50-yard line, Team B then decides whether to start overtime on offense or defense. Considering this is a true sudden death format, it would be rather rare for a team to willingly start on defense, unless the ball were placed very deep in the opponent’s territory.
The strategy to win the game would require coaches to obviously think a whole lot more than they do now.The intended effect of this format — as proposed by the Ravens and Eagles — is that it “changes options for winner of overtime coin toss and creates a true sudden death format.” The reason? It “creates excitement” and is “more competitive.”
Some smart people are having fun with the idea. The rest of us are a bit confused.
Mostly, as already mentioned, when would a team really choose to start on defense? If a field goal wins the game, and the plus-40 puts a team in field goal range, it feels like we’re condensing an entire game into the ability to get one or two first downs.
If the ball is at my own 40, I’m starting on offense; 20 yards and I win the game. Plus if I start on defense, the opponent would begin in field-goal range.
If the ball is at my opponent’s 40 or closer to the opponent’s goal line, I’m starting on offense; I’m already in field goal range.
So take the space between the 40s out of play.
If the ball is inside my own 40, I’m starting on offense; doing the opposite would give the opponent the ball while in field-goal range.
The only instance where I’d want to start on defense, theoretically, would be if the football was more than 60 yards away from my own end zone. But if it were … then I would just start on offense, and kick a field goal, and win the game.
The best ball placement idea would seemingly be to put the ball on the opponent’s 1-yard line. Why would a team ever do anything else?
I just don’t see this complicated option as being an equitable and easy solution to an overtime format that isn’t necessarily broken to begin with. But perhaps that’s my dumb, traditional, weak brain talking. Maybe the smart people have it all figured out and will kindly let me know where I’ve gone astray.
INTERMISSION: Watch Noted Rule Enjoyer John Harbaugh Explain What This OT Format Is All About!
Coach Harbaugh discusses the “spot-and-choose” overtime proposal and the rationale behind it. pic.twitter.com/r4MNnq6FXu
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) March 9, 2021
Got that? Cool! Moving on.
3. The “Spot And Choose” format, but with a 7:30 OT period
This proposal — put forth by the Ravens — has the same concept as the previous one. So if you don’t understand that one, congratulations! You also won’t understand this one. Welcome to the club!
This one is different, though, in that there is no sudden death element. Instead, the overtime period is 7:30. And all 7:30 will be played, no matter what. Whoever’s winning at the end of 7:30 wins the game. If it’s tied, the game ends in a tie.
In the playoffs, a second overtime period of 7:30 would be played if the game were tied at the end of the first overtime. A new “spot and choose” coin flip would take place for the second overtime period, and any more overtime periods that were necessary to determine a winner.
This proposal also had a clause to eliminate overtime in the preseason. That’s actually probably a bad idea in this instance, as coaches probably wouldn’t mind a chance to experiment with this new format in an exhibition game, before the real games being. But that’s neither here nor there now, is it?
This proposal had the same reason for being put forth as the one before it: “Creates excitement. More competitive.”
But … might it be too much?
One might ask why it’s not on the table for the regular overtime rules (with a kickoff to start) to remain in place, while eliminating the sudden-death aspect and adding the 7:30 timed overtime period.
Perhaps that’s the ultimate goal here? To eventually get to that? Maybe.
Some people don’t find that to even be necessary, as it seems reasonable to accept that if a team can’t keep an opponent out of the end zone in overtime, then that team can deal with the fact that it lost the football game. Alas! People scream for change. And this is what we get.
For now, it seems safe to assume that the “spot and choose” format might need some fine-tuning before it makes it to the big time. As it stands now, it might be too confusing for most viewers (and coaches … and media members, if we’re being honest), and it might not really improve anything. Different? Yes. But better? Questionable.
I genuinely hope that this article helped you better understand the proposals, because I honestly feel as though I understand it worse now than I did when I started. Seems like not the best idea to throw this one in NFL fans’ faces this coming fall.