The National Football League owners have approved - on a 28-4 vote - new overtime rules for playoff games. Under this set of rules, the team that receives the ball first in overtime must score a touchdown in order to win the game. If they simply kick a field goal, the opposing team will then get the ball and have a chance to win the game with a touchdown or tie the game with a field goal. If they tie the game, it would then be a sudden death situation, where the next team to score a touchdown or a field goal would win. A safety on the first possession would also end the game. And if the kicking team chooses to try an onside kick, recovers the kick, and manages to score any points at all on that possession, they would win because the receiving team had the opportunity to possess the ball.
This will only be for playoff games, although there's word that owners will be meeting in May and will consider voting it in for regular season games as well. To me, that only makes sense. What other sport has special rules for playoff games only?
I was really indifferent to instituting a new overtime system until I saw the actual numbers. From 1974 - the year that Sudden Death overtime was introduced to the NFL - to 1993, the team that won the coin toss won the overtime game 46.8% of the time. The team that lost the coin toss also won 46.8% of the time. And there were a few ties through the years, which accounts for the other 6.4%. However, since 1994 - the year that the kickoff was moved from the 35 yard line back to the 30 yard line- the team that wins the coin toss has won nearly 60% of overtime games. That extra 5 yards on the kickoff led to better field position for the receiving team, which meant that after just a few plays, a team could conceivably be in field goal position. And with the range and accuracy of today's NFL kickers, usually the game is over at that point.
So maybe it was time to tweak it. Time will tell if this is the right system for the NFL. If nothing else, it's great for the Monday morning quarterbacks who will have something else to second-guess the coaches on.