We’ve been at (or at least near) the forefront of the opposition to the current sudden-death overtime procedure, which eventually will result in a sudden-Lombardi for a team that prevails on a coin toss, returns a kickoff 30 or 40 yards, gets a couple of first downs, and kicks a 40-yard field goal.
The notion that only one team gets the ball in overtime simply isn’t fair. And we’re not saying that with a Veruca Salt-style tantrum, but in deference to basic notions of equity. We’ve made the point many times in the past; fans who follow football casually throughout the season and who watch the Super Bowl for reasons other than the commercials will react to a team scoring a field goal on the first drive of overtime in the final game of the year by saying, “Why did they shoot the confetti before the other team got the ball?”
The recent comments from Titans coach Jeff Fisher, co-chair of the Competition Committee, confirm this view. “What we don’t want to have happen in the playoffs is a kickoff return, and then a penalty and a field goal, and have the game be over,” Fisher said.
Of course, that’s already happened. It’s precisely what happened to the Vikings in the 2009 NFC title game, but it wasn’t just a penalty. It was a questionable penalty. And a questionable fourth-down dive play. And a questionable third-down catch that moved the ball into range for the game-winning field goal.
So why not simply give the Vikings a chance to match or beat the three points?
The dissenting views aren’t persuasive. “Play defense” doesn’t fly when there’s no guarantee of a chance to play offense. Besides, if there wasn’t a built-in benefit to getting the ball first, more people than Marty Mornhinweg would have chosen to kick.
And the supposedly reasoned views against the move frankly make no sense. Consider this column from Terrence Moore of FanHouse. He claims the proposed rule would have undermined the legendary 1958 championship game between the Colts and the Giants. You know, the one that ended with a touchdown in overtime.
The one with the outcome that would have been no different under the new rule.
Then there’s the misguided complaint that the playoff-only modification would create two separate sets of rules, one for the playoffs and one of the regular season. Well, that was the case in 1958, when there was no overtime procedure at all during the regular season.
Finally, Moore says the proposal is too complicated. It’s not. The team that receives the kickoff to start overtime can’t win with a field goal only. The application of common sense explains the rest.
Still, there’s a sense that the proposal won’t be adopted.
“I think there’s no chance that passes,” NFL Network’s Rich Eisen told Dan Patrick on Friday. “I think a lot of owners need more convincing first. I’d love for this rule to be passed, but when membership gets around to it I don’t see this thing passing.”
The problem is that, if the outcome of the NFC title game wasn’t convincing enough, the only thing that ever will convince the owners is a Super Bowl that ends on a one-drive field goal.
By then, it’ll be too late.