The NFL has had 15 minutes of regular-season overtime and some degree of short-week football for more than 40 years. Suddenly, the possibility of a team playing up to 75 minutes on a Sunday followed by a game on a Thursday was deemed sufficiently pronounced to compel a 33-percent shrinkage of overtime. As former NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino recently explained it, he suggested a 100-percent reduction of the fifth quarter. (I suppose it should now be called the seventh sixth.)
My first thought was that getting rid of overtime would result many more ties. I thought that because, before overtime was extended to the regular season in 1974, there were a lot of ties.
In 1973, there were seven ties in 182 total regular-season games, a tie rate of nearly four percent. Four teams had two ties each.
In 1970, the Chargers finished 5-6-3. That’s more of a locker combination than it is a win-loss record.
In 1965, the AFL had eight teams playing 14 games each, for a total of 56 regular-season games. Eight games — 14 percent of all of them — ended in a tie, with the Chargers finishing 9-2-3.
At a four-percent rate, the 32-team, 16-game NFL would produce 10 ties per year. That said, the changes in the rules regarding the passing game over the past four decades could make it easier for teams to move the ball and win games in regulation.
But don’t teams already try to avoid overtime by winning before the end of the fourth quarter? Few go into a protective shell midway through the fourth quarter, opting for the uncertainty of overtime over a shot at winning in regulation.
So of the 13 overtime games in 2016, how many wouldn’t have ended in a tie? Ditto for 2015, when 21 games finished regulation in a tie.
From a player health and safety standpoint, no overtime would definitely ensure that teams playing on a Sunday and then on a Thursday wouldn’t be overworked. But an uptick in ties would mean an increase in unsatisfying results. And that’s surely why the NFL added overtime 43 years ago.
So whether it’s 15 minutes or 10 minutes or true sudden death of a two-point conversion shootout (my preference), the NFL needs to find a way to keep ties to a minimum. Because everyone hates them.