Just win the coin toss.
Last season, teams winning the coin toss at the start of overtime ended up winning the game 66.7 percent of the time. And almost half the time (46.7 percent), the team that won the coin toss won on the opening possession of overtime. In those games, the losing team never even got the ball in OT.
The current overtime rule has been around since 1974, but for some reason the success rates have been increasing in recent years for teams winning the overtime coin toss.
“It concerns me,” said Atlanta president Rich McKay, who’s also the co-chair of the NFL’s competition committee. “But it also is a system that everybody knows the rules of, and everybody does have an opportunity to play defense. It’s not as though the coin flip decides the game.”
But in this age of ultra-accurate field goal kickers, a decent kickoff return at the start of OT and a couple of first downs puts you in range to win the game. (NFL kickers made 84.5 percent of their field goals last season, a league record.)
The competition committee spent hours talking about the overtime system this offseason in preparation for the NFL owners’ meetings, which begin Monday in Dana Point, Calif. But after talking with the NFL Players Association, and studying results of a survey of all NFL clubs, the competition committee decided to do … nothing. That’s right, there is no proposal on the table this week for making the overtime system more equitable.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing we’re in a position to propose at this time,” McKay said, during a conference call last week. “No club proposed a change. There’s no unanimity within the clubs as to a change. I think overtime still achieves its major goal, which is it breaks ties.”
Just hope that when you call “heads,” that’s how the coin lands. Otherwise, three hours of hard work could go down the drain quickly in overtime.
Nonetheless, McKay says, “I sense more concern with the media about it probably than they do, meaning the players, the coaches, the members of the league. … I think people inside the league like the system. The system is built for excitement.”
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said he was surprised about how strongly the players felt that the current overtime system was fine.
“They were pretty adamant that extended play time, when you’re playing 20 games, exposes you to injury risk,” Anderson said. “They’d just as soon say, let’s battle it out during regulation, and if you can’t win it during regulation, you take your chances in overtime. But they like it the way it is.”