If overtime rule changes, will team that wins the toss choose to kick off?

NFL: NOV 12 Browns at Lions
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The current overtime rules create a clear incentive for the team that wins the toss to receive the opening kickoff. If the rule changes (presumably, for the postseason only), will that thinking adjust?

Peter King and I kicked around the possibility during Tuesday’s PFT Live. It makes plenty of sense. If a possession is guaranteed for each team, why not force the other team to take its possession first? Then, the team that kicked off to start overtime will know exactly what it needs to do on its opening drive.

Stop the offense, and a field goal wins the game. If the offense scores a touchdown, the team that kicked off to start overtime knows it needs to get to the end zone, converting the full gridiron into four-down territory.

Other factors include the weather and the wind, and whether the team that wins the toss is the home team or the visitor. Also, whether the game ends up in overtime at 34-34 or 3-3 will be a factor in deciding whether the team that wins the toss should choose to kick or receive.

Regardless, the no-brainer option to receive (unless you’re Marty Mornhinweg) becomes anything but a no-brainer if the rule changes. Indeed, the default choice quickly could become to kick.

13 responses to “If overtime rule changes, will team that wins the toss choose to kick off?

  1. Make it so if Team A wins the coin toss and scores a touchdown, Team B also now gets a chance but HAS to go for 2.

    Team A has to decide upon scoring how much they trust their offense for 2 versus defense giving up a full 8, or they go the easier route of kicking the extra point, knowing they just have to stop the full 8 point drive (I assume around 50% chance of getting 2).

    This way each team has to take chances, decide what side of the ball to trust more. Coin toss winner Team A has to decide whether to play down the middle or gamble. You also offset some of the coin toss loser Team B having the 4-down advantage.

    Higher percentage to get a winner those first two drives, and all the variables won’t allow for a team to say they didn’t get a chance.

  2. Of course they will defer. And if they score a matching TD to get within 1, they will go for 2. The coach knows the defenses are gassed, and the opposing team only needs a FG to win on the second possession. You don’t need an analytics expert to know what is the right call.

  3. A friend taught me years ago (in the context of board game playing) that if a game decision is a clear no-brainer, it’s a red flag that something is unbalanced. It’s currently a no-brainer one way, but hopefully it won’t just flip to a no-brainer the other way.

  4. Your argument is for teams to play not to lose. That’s not happening. If teams win the toss, they’ll take ball. Period.

  5. So teams would be giving up the third possession in overtime (which would likely be sudden death at that point) so they know if they need to score a TD or kick a FG before that?

    Maybe in a low scoring game a coach might try it, but that third possession seems far more valuable than the rare occurrence where the team might not need to try to score a TD to win.

  6. I think that’s overthinking it. You assume they’ll accomplish it, and the second guessers will be pointing out how the other team gets the 3rd possession in a tie game that is now sudden death and only needs a FG.

  7. Its almost as if the rule change to create fairness, has given a massive advantage to the team who has the ball second… This has been my point for the last few stories on this. The team with the ball second now operates their entire drive in 4 down territory, giving their offense an advantage. They know if they need 3 or 7 and can play accordingly. And, also gives them a chance to go John Harbaugh and attempt a 2 point conversion for the win. All of this BS about “fair” in this country is blinding us from intelligent conversation. Ensuring both teams get possession gives a HUGE advantage to the team that has the ball second. If we are making a rules change for “fairness” we cant change the rules to something that knowingly gives an advantage to the team with the ball second, because once again “a coin toss determines the game”.

  8. @John Wick

    It doesn’t give a HUGE advantage to the team that gets the ball first if each team gets a chance. Yes, it’s an advantage. But it greatly NEGATES the advantage the team that wins the coin toss already has. The odds of both teams scoring a touchdown or both teams kicking a field goal are not very high. Well under 50%.

    Of course nothing will ever be perfectly fair. But giving each team one possession is much fairer than the current system.

  9. Oops, sorry @John Wick, I misread your comment. But it definitely isn’t an advantage for the team that gets the ball second. The minimal advantage of knowing what you need to do to win the game is negated by the fact that even if you tie the game, the other team has the sudden death advantage now.

    If the rule change actually goes into effect, someone will do the math and it’ll be pretty obvious that choosing to get the ball second will not be a winning strategy over the long-term, assuming the game goes to sudden death after the first two possessions.

  10. Overtime should be like shootouts in soccer and the NHL. Both teams get X number of possessions at the opposing team’s 20. In the playoffs, if it’s still a tie they keep going until it isn’t.

  11. The OTHER advantage of playing defense if you win the coin toss is if you turn it over.
    If you take it away from the team that had it first, then all you need to do is make a field goal, because the other team already had their possession.

  12. So, if team 1 scores and then team 2 scores and its still tied, then team 1 gets the ball again and can win with a score? Team 2 never gets the ball back? How is that significantly different?

    I’m sorry, I dont see a major difference except to appease those who want both teams to get the ball.

    Now, it will all come down to who is able to convert a two point play.

    Play an extra time period whether its 5-10-15 minutes. Thats really the only fair way.

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