The League

Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

First to Six Wins


I like the overtime rules how they are. Overtime is just like the rest of the game, only sudden death. But I can see how people might think that the flip of a coin can determine too much in the NFL. And that's not really fair.

The XFL tried the silly rugby style of scrumming for the ball instead of kickoffs to start the game and presumably overtime (I honestly never watched a full game to know if they even went to overtime.) But it does stand to reason that the flip of a coin is as arbitrary as any decision for possession you can have in sports.

I believe they flip a coin in soccer as well (that's how we did it when we were kids), but with a sport like soccer, possession changes so quickly that the first possession of a period really doesn't matter at all. In basketball the simple 'jump ball' rule is the best and most fair way to determine initial possession. Again, it's hard to mirror that idea in football without a helmet to helmet collision at midfield. And besides, there is so much scoring in basketball, sudden death would be silly, so initial possession doesn't matter.

Hockey and lacrosse have a faceoff situation, which might work if you put two players at the 50-yard line and asked them to muscle it out for the ball. But again, you're changing the rules of the game. In hockey and lacrosse, a faceoff is conducted after every goal. In hockey, they go so far as to face off every time the whistle blows.

No, playing football the way football is played during regulation is the best method. It's far better than the college way, which is the equivalent of a three point shooting contest determining the winner of a basketball game. Starting the teams just outside the red zone with alternating possessions isn't football. It's target practice and way to pad stats. Perhaps if they started at midfield and each team got alternating possessions the rule might work in the pros.

So why not keep what the NFL has, but make the winning team need to score six points in overtime instead of three? With six points, if a team scores a touchdown on their first possession, the game is over. If they kick a field goal, they'll have to kick off, stop the other team on defense, then kick another field goal in order to win the game.

If you give up a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, you deserve to lose. So teams couldn't really complain about not getting an overtime possession. Blame your defense, not the rules. But if a team gives up a long field goal, it is a somewhat flukey way to lose a game. Make the other team do it twice. That way, the team that gets scored on first still has a chance to win...or tie. Yep, the NFL does have some of those.

By Dan Levy  |  March 19, 2009; 10:59 AM ET  | Category:  Dan Levy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Star Treatment | Next: NFL OT Unfair


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The above is a decent proposal. Keep the sudden death, but first to score six in OT wins. Not bad.

I always thought the rule only needed to be modified just a wee bit: ensure both teams get at least one possession in OT. If the team that wins the coin flip (Team A) kicks a FG, then they have to kick-off to the opposing team (Team B) and then the contest is decided by that possession. If Team B can drive to a winning TD, great. If they have to punt, then Team A wins. If Team B also kicks a FG, then the next team to score wins. If Team A does not score on its first possession, then the normal sudden death rules apply. If OT ends tied, then we still have a tie.

My solution would eliminate the gripes about the current OT rules favoring the team that wins the coin toss. It would virtually force Team B to go for it on fourth down on its first possession of OT (provided Team A scored), because giving the ball back means a loss. It's a fairly simple concept, and it doesn't change the nature of the game. Both teams have to play both offense and defense in OT. I can't believe it hasn't been suggested before.

Posted by: bigboid | March 19, 2009 12:17 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company