Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Winning the toss

I see that the NFL has voted to change its overtime rules for playoff games. Why they decided to do this for the playoffs only is beyond me, but it's a step in the right direction. Basically, if the team that receives the ball first scores a touchdown on its possession, they win. If they only score a field goal, then the other team gets a possession to attempt to tie or win the game. If the score is tied after those two possession (i.e., both teams get field goals) then we revert to sudden death.

This is almost indistinguishable from my old notion for repairing OT, which I first proposed in this space more than seven years ago: The first team to possess the lead after each team has completed one possession wins the game. That's a simple way to say things. Team one scores a field goal, team two get a TD? Team two wins. Both teams get a field goal? Next score wins. Neither team scores on the first two possessions? Next score wins. And for some craziness: Team One fumbles the ball, and Team Two's defense returns it for a touchdown? Guess what: Both teams have had possession, and Team Two has the lead. Game over, Team Two wins.

Of course, there's that pesky annoying third way to score: the safety. As continues to be my belief, points should not be awarded for a safety. I hate points for a safety, because it seems to me that scoring should be based on one thing. After all, there's only one way to score a run in baseball: a runner must cross home plate. In hockey, to score a goal, the puck must go into the net. In basketball, to score points, the ball must go through the basket. Period. And aside from the safety, in football, to score points you must possess the ball. Awarding points for a safety feels to me like changing baseball so that if the pitching team turns a triple play, they're awarded a run. (My ideal safety would simply be this: the team recording the safety automatically takes possession at the 45-yard line of the team that gave up the safety. No two points, no free kick -- just an automatic end of possession resulting in pretty bad field position.)

According to one article I read, under the new OT rules, a safety at any point in OT wins the game, which I suppose would be accurate. But winning in OT by two points by safety would just seem awfully lame.

So the NFL is moving toward my position. Yay! Now, is it draft day yet?


redsneakz said...

It seems a solution in search of a problem.

According to one thing that I've seen, only 35% of OT games are decided on the first series, so it may be some advantage to get the ball first. On another hand, though, when the ball is kicked from the 35 yard line, the advantage goes down to 52-48 for the first posession, a number that is close enough to 50% to make the thing work, even with sudden-death OT.

Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, I think the old system was a problem because the perception of unfairness existed.
I disagree with you on the safety. If a team is that sloppy (or the punter that good to provide such lousy field position), then they deserve to have points scored against them (or, if there was such a mechanism, taken away from them).

Anonymous said...

According to what I've read, about 55% of teams won on the first possession of OT through about 1994. Since that time, rule changes favoring the pass have increased that to over 60%.

But is it all rule changes, or is it the failure of NFL defensive coordinators and head coaches to stop trying to copy the Tampa-2 so unsuccessfully with cornerbacks drafted because they were slow and limited (like the Vikings' Cedric Griffin)? I'd rather see this problem solved with better defense.