Overtime changes aren't on agenda

Packer Report tells you why, with comments from Packers GM Ted Thompson and other NFL executives.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson sounded an awful lot like Winston Churchill.

It was the legendary British prime minister who famously said: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Asked about the possibility of changing the rules to overtime last month at the NFL Scouting Combine, Thompson said: "I'm not a particular fan of the overtime (rules). I have not been presented with a good answer to the question, though. I don't know what the alternative is."

It's a familiar refrain. The Packers lost the overtime coin flip twice last season and lost both games without their offense getting a crack with the ball. The Indianapolis Colts lost the overtime coin flip in the playoffs at San Diego and were eliminated without touching the ball.

Last season, two-thirds of the teams that won the overtime coin flip wound up winning the game. That a game pitting some of the finest athletes in the world gets decided by a 50-50 flip of the coin doesn't seem fair.

Problem is, none of the alternatives are better, and that's why a movement to charge the rules gained so little traction that it won't be brought up at the NFL owners meetings that started on Monday. With economic and labor issues taking precedence, overtime isn't a significant issue.

"I don't particularly think we should change the game," Thompson said. "I don't think you should start saying, ‘OK, you kick off at the 40 now,' as opposed to the 30, when you played the entire game from the 30. I don't know that it's fair that you give everybody one possession at the 50-yard line, because if you do that, then if one team happens to have a dynamite kick returner, then you take that player away from that team. So, I don't have the answer."

Colts President Bill Polian, whose team was on the short end of the coin flip in the playoffs, explained why the current system — while flawed — is superior to the college system. In college, each team gets the ball at the opponent's 25-yard line. Games requiring a fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh overtime aren't unusual.

"My personal concern is twofold," Polian said. "No. 1, the people who created this rule who know a lot more about football than I, wanted to eliminate ties, and they did. We've had one in five years. So, that's worked. Secondly, the players have mentioned on several occasions that they're concerned about extra plays in overtime. We don't have 106 men like the colleges do. We don't play 12 games like the colleges do. We don't have two-week bye weeks like the colleges do. It is difficult for us to play more plays and the players made that clear and you have to respect that."

Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak shared concerns over players' health.

"My biggest concern if we did go to a college type of overtime is that we could end up on that field for a long, long time on some given Sundays," he said. "Our games are very physical, very tough, and if all of a sudden two teams are out there four, four-and-a-half hours on a Sunday, I think it'd be very difficult."

Historically, the overtime coin flip hasn't been a big determining factor between winning and losing. According to league figures since the start of sudden-death overtime in 1974, the winner of the coin flip has won the game 53.7 percent of the time. Even last year's lopsided figures are a bit misleading, since the team that won the flip scored without giving up the ball in seven of the 15 overtime games. That means the coin-flip loser at least got a chance more than half the time.

Recent Packers playoff history illustrates that point. In the NFC championship loss to the Giants, the Packers won the flip but lost after a Brett Favre interception. In the infamous "fourth-and-26" loss at Philadelphia, a Favre interception cost the Packers that game. Just a week before that, the Packers' Al Harris won the game with a pick-six against Seattle.

In other words, the defense has a say in things.

"I wish some really smart person could come up with an alternative," Thompson said. "Because the way it is, I think it's as good as we can get it right now, or that's the best alternative we have, but it's not unbelievably fair. Because if something happens and all of a sudden, the ball goes down the field and you win the game on the first play, is that it? But that's the way it is now. In terms of the different options I've seen, the way we do it now is the one that I would prefer."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport

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