It’s Time Already to Get Rid of NFL’s Overtime Coin Toss Rule
by Gus Jarvis
Nov 24, 2009 | 1826 views | 3 3 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NBC’s Bob Costas wants to open up that age-old debate on whether or not NFL overtime rules should be changed. He asked former NFL coach Tony Dungy Sunday night what he thinks about the coin flip that decides who gets the ball first during sudden-death overtime.

Given that most overtimes are decided by who gets the ball first, Costas expressed to Dungy that the coin flip is “too random” and doesn’t seem fair. It’s sudden death. Dungy, who experienced an overtime loss when his team lost the coin toss, surprisingly answered that he likes the rule just as it is and that, often times, coaches want to be on defense first in overtime anyway.

Dungy’s statement certainly piqued my attention as I completely disagreed with the seemingly-brilliant football coach/know-it-all.

What coach on the face of this planet would ever turn down the opportunity to be on offense first in sudden death overtime? I simply can’t believe that a coach, after winning a toss, would decide to kick the ball. Your team must score first to win in overtime, why not take the first crack at it? Right? You must score to win.

In the past, I’ve never been to vocal about the NFL overtime coin toss rule. I never really liked it, but never really thought much about it. Now, after hearing Dungy and a few ESPN radio talking heads speak on the subject, I must admit that I feel pretty adamantly that the rule should be changed. It’s unfair and it is not as entertaining as it could be. In a sense, you are putting the game on the line with a coin toss when statistics tell us that teams winning the coin toss are more likely to win the game. Why do you think the hometown crowd cheers so loudly when their team wins the coin toss? Those 70,000 screaming fans know their time will likely win the game. The coin toss puts the game’s fate on probability, not football.

Just last February the overtime coin toss rule was scrutinized when it seemingly had an effect on the 2008/09-playoff picture. (The Patriots lost to the Jets on the first overtime possession after losing the coin flip, keeping them out of the playoffs and the Chargers beat the Colts by scoring on their first possession after winning the coin toss in overtime as well.)

The NFL’s competition committee discussed possible rule changes in February but ultimately no rule changes were recommended because there was no consensus on what system would replace the coin toss.

What’s wrong with the college system of overtime where each team is given an offensive possession on the 25-yard-line? I love college football overtime. As a fan, it doesn’t get any better than that. Whose defense wants to step up and win a game with their opponent knocking on their door? That’s what it basically comes down to. Who wants to D up?

The college system is also a good way to see if a team has really worked on the details of their game. If they do score a touchdown, they are going to have to kick an extra point. All of those (usually) minor details of an offense now become very important in overtime.

Alternatively, the NFL could change the rule by allowing one full period of play to expire for an overtime. While I believe this method is a bit more fair, it could draw out the game and it would make for less excitement than college football rules.

A hybrid of methods to decide overtime could be considered. For example, each team could be given one possession from the 25 yard line and if the score remains tied after that, then institute the sudden death rules. With that, at least each team would have an equal opportunity to possess the ball at least once. I must say, though, I am not sold on that method either.

The NFL needs to change over to the college football style of playoffs ASAP. Since we’re talking about professionals here, each team should have possession of the ball on the 45 yard line. Each offense will have to prove itself the winner by at least converting a couple of first downs and then put the ball in the end zone. And if they can’t move the ball, having their possession start on the 45 will make it tougher for the kicker, who will have to put it through the uprights from long distances. Believe me, this would be so fun. Somebody tell me the drawbacks of this method. Hell, I even like making the offenses go for two after a touchdown once the game goes into three overtimes. It sounds too exciting to pass up.

I know this argument has been beat over and over like the Detroit Lions. But why should we wait until a team wins the Super Bowl because they won a coin toss? When that happens, the rules will change. I say college football overtime rules from the 45-yard-line should start next year.
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Dell from Michigan
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January 25, 2010
Here's my idea. Basically keep it the same as now, with one major change. To end in sudden death, you have to win by 4 pts. 2-3 first downs and a field goal won't cut it. You have to go all the way for a TD to win on an opening drive. If you settle for a FG, then the other team does still get a chance too. If they score a TD PAT to go up by 4, they win. Otherwise play continues until 1 team leads by at least 4 or time runs out. If its still a tie, then do it again.

Another alternative is the first team to score 4 points rather than margin of 4.

H-Diesel
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November 25, 2009
Gus, great article and I agree there has to be a better way...but that is just because the game favors the offense so much these days. Not too long ago- Elway vs Browns days- whoever won the coin toss would choose to kick. Adopting the college system would be sweet, then push them back 10 yards every set.

By the way- Patriots fans, not the Patriots, are stupid (ex. see below).

Out like Chris Simms,

The H-Diesel

Roaskie Toask
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November 25, 2009
couldn't disagree more. clearly you're never played in the nfl. please stick to things that you know such as patchouli oil, phish concerts, and bashin the patriots.