Colts' Bill Polian finds himself in middle of NFL overtime debate

March 2, 2010
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While top NFL prospects were running, jumping and lifting for scouts from the 32 professional teams on hand at the Combine in Indianapolis yesterday, a debate was going on behind the scenes at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Members of the NFL’s competition committee, which includes Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, were discussing the rules which govern overtime.

According to sources familiar with discussions, there are two sharply divided sides and the debate at times yesterday was intense. One side wants overtime to remain in its current sudden death format, meaning the first team to score wins.

The other side wants a change, and here’s what was proposed yesterday in Indianapolis.

If the team that first gets the ball in overtime scores a touchdown, the game is over. However, if the team that first gets the ball, does not score or scores a field goal, the other team gets the ball.

NFL owners are especially concerned with a playoff game being determined by a coin flip, as some suggest was the case in this year’s NFC Championship between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.

Since 1994, nearly 60 percent of teams to win the coin toss won the game and 73 percent of overtime games have been decided by a field goal.

The committee will discuss the rule change during the spring owners' meetings March 21-24. The vote would need two-thirds (or 24 of 32 owners' approval) to pass.

  • The proposed ideas make sense
    I like the ideas given in the proposed change. This forces the team that gets the ball first to truly win with offense (winning on a long field goal during the first position is kind of weak). And it also satisfies the naysayers that say you have to win with defense (if a team scores a TD on you, then you didn't deserve to win the OT game).

    It would also change the strategy a bit - do you go for the FG when in range, or do you go for it on 4th down and try to keep the drive alive towards a TD?

    There will always be detractors who like the old method, but I think the old rules have some flaws:
    - The first team to get the ball merely has to win with offense, and the defense never takes the field. Additionally, they only have to move the ball to around the 33 yard line, given the range of today's FG kickers.
    - The second team has to not only stop the other team with defense, but they also have to then put together a drive with their offense. Basically both sides of the ball have to 'win', versus the first team having to 'win' with just one side of the ball.
  • Huh?
    I think you better double check your story. The system you described as a change is exactly what is in place now. Are you sure you don't mean that if the first team scores, the second team is then given the ball and a chance to score? That would actually be a change and might make some sense.
  • Clearing the air
    JW, just to clarify the new overtime rule being considered. Here's how it will go down. The two teams will have the coin flip to determine who gets the ball first (as is done now). If the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over (as it is now). If the first team to get the ball only scores a field goal, the other team would then get a shot at either tieing the game with a field goal or winning it with a touchdown. If the second team to get the ball is held scoreless after the first team scores a field goal, game over. Of course if they both score field goals, the game continues. Obviously if the first team to get the ball goes scoreless, the overtime continues (as it does now). Hope that helps.
  • Football Overtime
    Both teams deserve at least one possession in overtime. Why is this even an issue?
  • Everybody wins!
    Under the newly proposed rule, nobody loses. The games will (usually) go a bit longer, requiring both offense and defense to stay sharp. Fans get to enjoy longer games and prolonged OT will keep fans on the edge of their seats. Furthermore, additional advertising time can be sold, generating more revenue for the networks/teams. This is a win-win as far as I'm concerned.
  • Try this
    Why not adopt the college OT rules. that way each team gets the same chances
  • Safety
    I like it and one strange corollary is that if a team gives up a safety on the first possession, they would not techically lose until after they kicked off and the team that scored the safety has possesion of the ball. That means a team could give up a safety, do an on side kick, get the ball, and score a TD to win. If they kicked a FG and now the score was 3-2. The team with 2 could win with either a FG or TD.

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