NFL Votes In Favor of Overtime Change

March 24th, 2010- By Bryan Cross

Those who have been opposed to the NFL’s sudden-death overtime policy and would like to see a change can now look forward to new rules for the upcoming 2010-11 NFL Season.

On Tuesday, the 32 NFL team owners voted on the overtime change, and a new rule is being instated allowing a team which loses the coin toss to get an equal possession if the team that wins the coin toss drives down and scores a field goal.  However, this new rule extends only in postseason play, with the regular season rules remaining unchanged.

The vote passed by a 28-4 margin, with only the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals against the proposal.

The change was spearheaded by statistics.  Back in 1994, the NFL decided to move the position of the ball on the kickoff, taking it from the 35 yard-line back to the 30.  As a result, teams accumulated consistently better field position.  The team on the winning side of the coin toss won the game 60 percent of the time over the 15-year time-frame.  Additionally, the victor in the overtime coin toss went down and scored on the first possession 34.4 percent of games

“We’ve had this discussion for a number of years,” remarked competition committee member Rich McKay. “We feel this year’s proposal gave us the opportunity to [install] a pretty good rule. Statistically we felt it needed to be changed. It wasn’t creating the fairest result as far as field goal accuracy, field goal distance and drive starts.”

While the new rule change could have significant impact come playoff time, McKay stated that the vote easily passed because the integrity of the sudden death element was still there.

“Plenty of people on the committee, myself included, are so-called traditionalists,” stated Indianapolis president Bill Polian. “I am proud to be one. But once you saw the statistics, it became obvious we had to do something.”

Additionally, this rule change is not a trial, it will be instituted permanently.  Overtime in the NFL began in 1974 with the goal of preventing ties throughout the season.

While the overtime rules remain the same for the regular season, McKay said that other changes could be on the horizon if the league feels it is necessary to institute a change.

The most recent overtime game in the playoffs took place between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game.  The Saints won the coin toss, took it down the field, and kicked a field goal to propel themselves into Super Bowl XLIV.

“That’s interesting,” McKay remarked. “One of the teams that voted against was in the game and, last I checked, I don’t think they won.”

The NFL Players association was not involved in the decision to make a change, and some players do not agree with the new rule.

“I just think that they should keep it like it is,” remarked Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley. “It makes things interesting. Some people don’t like the coin toss, but that’s just the way it goes. If you’re on defense first and you don’t have the ball, you’ve just got to stop them.”

Currently, USA Online Sportsbooks favor the Indianapolis Colts to win next year’s Super Bowl XLV.

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