The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Decisions, decisions

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Here's the first situation that came into my head after the NFL owners passed the new overtime rule.

New Orleans wins the overtime toss in the NFC title game -- I'm using last season as an example -- and drives to the Green Bay 20, where the Saints face fourth and three. Do they kick a relatively easy field goal and take a three-point lead? Or do they go for a first down, hoping to get the six points that will win the game and NOT give the ball back to Brett Favre?

I suppose the change that requires the team that wins the coin toss to score a touchdown is good because it's good for fans and for television. But it's not so great for the coaches, because they don't want any more decisions to make, especially those that can be second-guessed.

In fact, most NFL coaches opposed the change. That's why commissioner Roger Goodell decided to vote on it in an executive session -- one representative per team, most decidedly NOT a coach.

It's an old trick first used by Pete Rozelle and especially effective at March meetings, which usually are held in resorts with PGA Tour quality golf courses. "Send the coaches to the golf course,'' Rozelle used to say.

When this thing first came up, I felt like a coach. I didn't want change. I thought about the Falcons-Giants game this year. Neither team could stop the other -- you knew as the Falcons drove down the field down seven points late in the game they would tie it. They did and then you knew the team that won the coin toss would win the game. That was the Giants and, of course, they went through the Atlanta defense as if it weren't there, stopping finally to let Lawrence Tynes kick a 36-yard field goal to win it 34-31.

The problem is that the new rule probably wouldn't have made a difference. Eli Manning threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns. If Matt Ryan had the ball in OT, the same thing would have happened.

That may be less likely in a playoff game -- neither of those teams played much defense last season. But in that case, there's another built-in problem: the team getting the ball first has to score a touchdown. If it doesn't, the other team only has to kick a field goal. And the defensive team can also win on a safety.

I was at a game like that in Minnesota on Nov. 5, 1989 when the Vikings beat the Rams 23-21 on an OT safety. That game was odd for another reason -- the Vikings didn't score a touchdown, getting all their points on seven Rich Karlis field goals and that safety, which came when Mike Merriweather blocked Dale Hatcher's punt, which rolled out of the end zone. Oddity number three? Merriweather didn't realize the safety ended the game.

But back to the new rule, which applies only to the playoffs although it could be extended to the regular season.

Now that it's passed, I don't mind it.

But it's still an advantage for the team that wins the coin toss. Defenses tire more easily than offenses and a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady (or an Eli Manning or Matt Ryan) will simply go all the way instead of stopping at the 20. Fairer? Perhaps. But not by much.

On the other hand, soccer World Cups -- played every four years -- have been won by penalty-kick shootouts.

Now that's a silly way to decide a title.

By Dave Goldberg  |  March 24, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Competition Committee , Dave Goldberg , NFL , NFL Rules , Overtime Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I'm not sure why 'fairness' needs to be a factor...both teams have 60 minutes to win a game, and if they can't do it in the allotted time, then you can make the argument that both teams have lost the right to a 'fair' resolution. I would hate to see this new rule implemented for the regular season...I tend to think the team getting the ball in OT will still play conservatively so as to not turnover the ball in their own territory, and going for a relatively easy FG might be the strategy. Then you just have to defend against a TD. If you give up a FG, well, you get the ball back with a chance to end it on the next possession.

I'd like to see the NFL eliminate OT in the regular season...just have tie games. Ties, ironically, would act as a natural tiebreaker in the standings at the end of the season. Gone would be the days of 5 teams at 9-7 and having to go thru the myriad tiebreak procedures (which for some odd reason nobody complains about...) A 9-7 team with 2 OT losses would then be 9-5-2...a solid playoff squad while a 9-7 team with 2 OT wins would be 7-7-2...big difference and a more true reflection of each teams efforts over the course of the season.

I say, if you can't win it in 60...you don't deserve to win or have things be 'fair'...

Posted by: HOOLIE1 | March 30, 2010 1:59 AM

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