Two wrongs don’t make a right. They potentially make a freaking mess.
I’m not one to say “I told you so” (actually, I am), but I want to make sure it’s clear from the get-go that the misguided change to the preseason and regular-season overtime procedures will result in unintended consequences. At least the owners let themselves an escape hatch by making the change a one-year proposition, with 24 yes votes necessary in 2018 to continue it.
Oh, wait. They didn’t. Per a league spokesman, it’s a permanent change. That means it becomes the law of the land until at least 24 of the owners decide to dump it.
Think of how this came to be. For decades, overtime has had a duration of up to 15 minutes. While longer overtime periods became more likely after the adoption of the two-possession rule* in 2010, it wasn’t until the NFL faced increasing criticism for Thursday Night Football that sealing off the possibility of a team playing up to 75 minutes on a Sunday and then playing again on a Thursday became a concern. Taking that possibility off the table became the top concern that pushed the change through, despite real concerns about what may happen — and with no easy way to fix the mistake because the opposition will now have to grow from nine to 24 to change the rule again.
There could be more ties, which everyone will hate. There definitely won’t be fewer ties, not with the rule that guarantees the team that kicks off to start overtime a chance to tie or beat a first-drive field goal. And there could be unfair outcomes, with dinking and dunking by a West Coast offense milking the clock and giving the other team little or no time to score if/when they get the ball for the first and only time.
Some believe teams will now play faster in a compressed extra session. If they do, and if the same number of average snaps are taken in overtime with 10 minutes as there were with 15, the problem won’t have been addressed at all.
There are too many variables, too many permutations, too many possibilities for the league to make this change on a permanent basis. The fact that the league office commandeered a permanent change shows how committed it is to the new rule regardless of consequence, which underscores that the main objective was simply to take from the table one of the things to which players, media, and fans could point when complaining about short-week football.
Instead, players, media, and fans will be complaining about the unintended consequences of 10-minute overtime, if not this season then eventually.