Since the NFL adopted overtime for the regular season 45 years ago, the winner of the overtime coin toss has chosen to receive the kickoff about 99 percent of the time. That may change if the proposed overtime rule change is adopted.
The proposal, which was tabled until May, would guarantee both teams a possession in overtime, even if the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown on the opening possession.
That rule might make kicking off more advantageous than receiving at the start of overtime. If you get the ball second in overtime, you know what you need to do to win: Score a touchdown or just kick a field goal. That allows teams to cater their play calling and strategy to the specific situation, and that’s why the team that wins the coin toss in college football overtime almost always chooses to play defense first, and get the ball second.
The NFL proposal isn’t exactly the same as college overtime, and there are some advantages to getting the ball first that don’t apply in college. For example, in the regular season overtime would still be limited to 10 minutes, and receiving the kickoff would allow the first team with the ball to take a lot of time off the clock and not leave the other team with much (or any) time to score on its possession. That’s one reason coaches might rather receive.
If the rule passes, it’s going to make for some interesting strategic decisions for coaches. And a lot of second-guessing of coaches when their teams lose in overtime. Which may be one reason that coaches have given the proposal a lukewarm reception.