Last week, Kansas City G.M. Brett Veach hinted that the Chiefs would be proposing a significant change to the overtime rules, one that would have given the Chiefs an opportunity to possess the ball after New England scored a touchdown on the first drive of overtime in the AFC Championship. As it turns out, the Chiefs are proposing much more than that.
The NFL has unveiled the rules changes proposed by the clubs, and the Chiefs have suggested three changes to overtime.
First, both teams would have an opportunity to possess the ball at least once in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown.
Second, overtime would be eliminated for the preseason.
Third, the overtime coin toss would be eliminated, and the team that wins the initial coin toss would have the option to kick or receive, or to select which goal to defend.
The fact that the Chiefs have proposed these rule changes means that the Competition Committee has decided not to do so, which will make it harder as a practical matter to muster the 24 necessary votes from the 32 teams. But each of these changes make plenty of sense.
The first proposal could lead to more regular-season ties, but it would definitely provide a more equitable approach to postseason overtime. Perhaps the better approach would be to keep the current rules in place for regular-season games, or perhaps revert to sudden death. For the postseason, it’s definitely more fair to give both teams a chance to possess the ball.
The issue first emerged nine years ago, when a first-drive field goal gave the Saints a berth in the Super Bowl, over the Vikings. After adopting in March 2010 a rule that guarantees a possession for the team that kicked off to start overtime if the receiving team scores a field goal in postseason games, the league extended the rule in May of that year to the regular season.
Super Bowl LI ended with the Patriots winning the coin toss to start overtime and scoring a first-drive touchdown. That didn’t prompt any push to change the rules, however. Two years later, New England’s ability to drive the length of the field and to score a touchdown while keeping the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes from getting a chance to match or beat the touchdown raised questions about the fairness of the approach.
The questions emerged for good reasons; the current rule isn’t fair to the team that loses the toss of a coin. And those who would shout “play defense!” are essentially the same who consistently complain about rules changes that have made it easier for offenses to move the ball. Given that the playing field is indeed tilted toward the offense, a touchdown drive to open overtime shouldn’t end the game — especially in the playoffs.