clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should the NFL change its overtime system?

[Reminder: Voting continues for The Phinsider Hall of Fame. You can vote by clicking right here.]

Let's take a break, if only for a moment, from the offseason rumors and wishlists to talk about an issue facing the entire National Football League.


Maybe it's just me, but I really don't like the current overtime system in the NFL. Sudden death overtime just doesn't seem fair to me - especially in the playoffs. Why? Well, the current system encourages teams to play for a field goal. Does that sound like real football? Other than in the final two minutes of a half, when do NFL teams play for a field goal?

It just isn't fair that a team could lose a game - and could even lose a championship - by losing the coin toss and then holding their opponent to a field goal. Am I the only one that sees this as a problem?

So what's the solution? It's not the college system, that's for sure. I like the idea of having both teams get a chance to touch the football. But starting from the 25 yard line? It's entertaining at the college level but is not at all practical for the NFL.

However, I think there are four scenarios that might be better the current sudden death system currently in place.

Solution #1: Modified college system
This first idea is pretty simple. The NFL could copy the NCAA's overtime system - with one key change. Instead of starting from their opponent's 25 yard line, each team would start from their own 25 or 30 yard line.

So each team would get the same amount of offensive possessions - just as in the NCAA. But it would be much more like "real" football because teams would have to drive the football down the field just like normal.

The problem, of course, would be that teams would obviously always go for it on fourth down - as punting would be of no real value since the opposing team would start their drive at their own 25 or 30 regardless. But it's an idea - and it could be tweaked.

Solution #2: Modified sudden death
This system would be a lot like the current one. But the difference here would be that each team would get one offensive possession before going to sudden death. For example, if the team that receives the first kickoff of OT kicks a field goal, the other team would still get a chance for an offensive possession. But if they remain tied after each offense gets a chance, it would then become the first team to score.

If nothing else, this eliminates the problem many have with the current system in that each team is guaranteed at least one offensive possession.

Solution #3: The full fifth quarter
I really like this idea - but it might not be the most practical. The rules are simple - play one full ten minute quarter. It would be played just as the fourth quarter of the game is played and wouldn't end until the clock reaches 0:00. So one team could get an early lead and then try to milk the clock. Or it could come down to a last second field goal. It sure would be exciting, if nothing else.

But it presents an issue. What happens if the game remains tied after the extra ten minute period? And we can't forget about television issues. If an early Sunday afternoon games goes into overtime, it would cut into the late afternoon games - causing headaches for television networks.

Solution #4: First to six points
This last idea is definitely my personal favorite. The idea is simple - whichever team scores six points first in overtime wins. That means a team could lose in OT without ever getting an offensive snap. But only if that team surrenders a touchdown on the opening drive. However if a team kicks a field goal on the opening drive, the opposing team would get a chance to win by scoring a touchdown on their first drive.

This idea would add entirely new strategy to overtime. Say the team that receives the opening OT kickoff is facing a 4th and 2 from the 25, for example. Do they go for it in hopes of continuing their drive towards a game-winning touchdown? Or do they settle for the field goal and hope their defense steps up?

I think this would really add new excitement to the sport and make overtime so much more entertaining...and fair.

So what do you think?