It happened again. An NFL game – in this case, a really big NFL game – went into overtime and was essentially settled with a coin flip. And this time, the frickin’ coin didn’t even flip.
That image of Clete Blakeman’s commemorative currency floating to earth like a leaf is all we should need to realize the league’s overtime rule is off-kilter. After the Arizona Cardinals won Blakeman’s re-flip Saturday night, they won the game on a couple of huge Larry Fitzgerald plays. Their opponent, the Green Bay Packers, never touched the ball in overtime.
The problem isn’t so much the Packers’ sudden death. It’s the randomness of the coin flip.
But don’t worry, folks, I have a solution. After you read this, you can carry me from the field on your shoulders. We’ll all have a pint at the local tavern and then we can start harassing the NFL office to change its rules for games tied after four quarters.
Here’s my idea: The team that scores last in regulation kicks off in overtime. Even the score on a last-second drive, or an early-fourth-quarter field goal, or whatever, and you’ll be starting on defense in OT. You tie it up, you tee it up.
No more pan-denominational prayers while a coin is spinning in the air. The formula will tell us who gets the ball.
The beauty of this rule change is that it would dissuade teams from playing for a tie at the end of regulation. NFL coaches (excluding, say, Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera) love to play for ties. Those probability sheets the teams use to determine on-field decisions like “go for 1” or “go for 2”? I’m convinced they just have “play for the tie” scribbled all over them.
If my rule were the working rule, when the Packers scored on that ridiculous Hail Mary on Saturday, they would have known that they’d be kicking off in overtime. They therefore would have had strong reason to avoid the extra period. Mike McCarthy would have almost certainly gone for the 2-point conversion with no time on the clock. Make it, Green Bay wins. Come up short and Arizona advances. What could be more compelling than that?
Overtime is fun (unless you’re in the press box), but do-or-die at the end of regulation is even better. The who-scored-last rule would put pressure on coaches and give the rest of us more to debate and critique, which is clearly the No. 1 reason sports exist.
For that reason, I would leave part of the current overtime rules intact. If a team gets the ball first and scores a touchdown on that possession, it wins. If it kicks a field goal, the opponent gets a chance to equalize or win. Again, it’s about forcing difficult decisions.
The way I see it, the only flaw in my idea is a game that winds up 0-0 at the end of regulation. Who would kick off in that case? Actually, who cares? If they can’t score a point in four quarters, both teams lose.