Don't Fix What Ain't Broke!

Jan 7, 2012 by

The most important thing to remember this post-season is that the rules have changed. Specifically, the overtime rules. Starting today, if a team scores a field goal in overtime, the other team must get a chance to tie the game up again, or win by a touchdown. You know, because overtime isn’t fair. Because in 60 minutes of regulation play, neither team was able to assert dominance over the opposition. Because today, crying gets you attention.

Sudden Death overtime was adopted by the NFL in 1941 for divisional championships and expanded to include league championship games in 1946. It would not be until 1958 that it would actually come into play in a championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants. With the score tied at 17, a coin was flipped, the Giants got the ball and failed to make a first down resulting in a punt. The Colts then marched 80 yards down field resulting in a one-yard touchdown by Alan Ameche. It is still remembered by the Old School as the Greatest Game Ever Played.

In 1974, the NFL expanded the rule to include pre-season and regulation games, but for one overtime period only. Playoffs and championships would still be played until a winner was decided. Things were fine for another thirty-six years until the upstart New Orleans Saints spoiled Brett Favre’s ‘All About Me’ comeback season by kicking an overtime field goal to win the NFC Championship and a trip to the Superbowl.

Of course, the crybabies had been ramping up for a few years at that point. Untold numbers of uneducated fans have spent countless hours babbling to anyone within earshot how everyone knows that the team that wins the coin toss wins 75% of the overtime games by kicking a stupid field goal… it’s a fact, buddy… look it up! Well, I have. And that fact is about as accurate and trustworthy as FOX “News” on any given Sunday.

Admittedly, they’re close on part of the percentage, but that’s about as far as it goes. Since that Colts/Giants game back in 1958, there have been 504 overtimes played in the NFL. (Nice number, eh New Orleans?) Of those games 71.31% have been decided by a field goal, 25.30% by a touchdown and 3.39% remained tied. So, yes, about two-thirds of OT games are won by a field goal. Good work so far kids…

But, the winner of the coin toss only wins about 56% of OT games. Not only that, but what the crybabies fail to mention is that of those 504 OT games, the coin toss winner only won 140 times on their first possession. That’s right kids… while there is an advantage to winning the coin toss, only 28% of OT games are won by coin toss winner on their first possession! In 364 OT contests BOTH teams touched the ball at least once, meaning that 72% of the time, the coin toss winner fails to score on their opening OT drive!! Overall, the coin toss winner wins 28% on their first possession and 28% on a subsequent possession. The loser of the coin toss wins 42% of the time, regardless of possession.

56%-42%… Sure there’s a slight advantage to the coin toss winner, but shouldn’t there be? I mean, they get the ball first, right? You’d think it would be higher, but it ain’t and that’s a huge factor that the NFL overlooked when tweaking the overtime rules. Of course, this wouldn’t have anything to do with advertising revenue, would it…

So what does all this mean? It means that the NFL –in the interests of perceived fairness– has fixed a rule that wasn’t really all that broken to begin with. And with all the NFL’s chest-pounding about safety in the league, this is a decision that makes absolutely no sense. Make two teams already exhausted from sixty minutes of play stay on the field until someone scores a touchdown or dies, right? I can’t wait to see how fast they backpedal when Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers suffers a broken leg or arm while trying to score that game-winning overtime touchdown…


-M Styborski

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