Rules and reaction: OT change expanded?

The owners passed a new format for overtime in the playoffs, but the way coaches and owners were reacting it could well be instituted for the regular season in just a couple months. Zygi Wilf, who voted against the change for the playoffs, talked about the difference in the regular season. What do the regular-season statistics say?

ORLANDO — The NFL wrapped up its March meeting Wednesday morning by approving several rules, but the Tuesday passage of the new procedure for playoff overtime games remained the biggest topic of discussion.

The more talk there was, the more it became crystal clear there's a strong chance the overtime changes will be extended to regular-season games when the NFL meetings take place in Dallas, May 24-26.

When asked if league-wide consideration will continue, commissioner Roger Goodell, "I think it will be. I think what we'd like to do is continue to analyze it and go back and talk to our players about it also and we'll discuss it again. There is the potential it will come up. There was a strong consensus for expanding it into the regular season."

Two of the four teams that voted against the playoff proposal, Cincinnati and Minnesota, said their "nays" would change to "yeas" if the overtime rule change was expanded and the regular season was included.

Said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf: "From a consistency standpoint, I think to have one rule for overtime in the regular season and to have a different set of rules for the postseason is totally inconsistent. There are a lot of unintended consequences by using different strategies for practicing during the season and the postseason. So from that standpoint, I think it's inconsistent."

The Steelers voted for the measure, but also wanted consistency all season.

Said coach Mike Tomlin: "I'm against structuring it differently in the playoffs than you would in the regular season. At the most critical time, the rules of the game are going to change? In terms of having an opportunity to educate my players in regards to how things are going to play out, I'm uncomfortable with that."

So, commissioner, if this "strong consensus" existed, why not amend the proposal and vote it in?

"Because there are a lot of other issues we would like to talk about," Goodell said. "We would like to talk to the players. We would like to talk to our network partners. We would like to understand it. We had a proposal on the table that was for the postseason. We passed that with the understanding that we would all continue to look at this and see if we wanted to expand it into the regular season."

Clearly, the Competition Committee was reluctant to include the regular season in their proposal because they feared rejection. Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian admitted the playoff proposal was the best first step to create change. No one could have predicted the widespread support that occurred.

Looking at the regular-season overtime averages shows that talk of the potential for injuries or games being extended and overlapping with others is unfounded.

Since 1994, there have been 244 regular-season overtime games, an average of 15.3 per season. Of those games, 84 were decided on the first possession, 64 by a field goal and 20 by a touchdown. The remaining 160 games all had at least two possessions anyway.

The 20 games won by touchdown would be over under the new format. The other 64 constitutes just four per season. It makes no sense there should be any concern over four games an entire season, on average, going longer.

Additionally, offensive strategy will change when overtime begins, and some of the games won by first-possession field goals could be instead won by a touchdown, as teams won't be playing for just a field goal to win.

The reality is that including the regular season should now be an easy sell.


Predictably, Goodell shot down any complaints by coaches that they weren't present for the deciding vote on overtime.

"That (vote) kind of got slipped in the back door," said Sean Payton, Saints head coach. "That's a taste you have in your mouth that's bitter."

Goodell disagreed. "We went through a full discussion yesterday with the coaches in the room and a full debate and the owners heard it," he said. "And, of course, it's probably no secret that there are certain owners who may have a different view than their coaches. But there are 32 clubs and 32 votes and this may not come as a news flash, but the owners have the vote."

Added Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, co-chair of the Competition Committee: "We discussed it Sunday evening, discussed it Monday morning with more coaches. We discussed it in detail from the committee's perspective in the ops meeting Monday at 10 am. We opened it for discussions, and there was really no discussion. Coaches had plenty of opportunity to voice their opinions.

"I don't think their disappointments or frustrations are necessarily stemming from the fact that they were opposed to it, it was the fact they didn't have an opportunity to discuss it. But they did. The bottom line is our owners are going to vote with influence and suggestions from the coaches. Bottom line is it's their call."


Several rules approved involved additional protection for players, including receivers and long snappers.

In the case of receivers, they now can't be hit in the neck or head area by a defender's head, shoulder or forearm until he has had time to protect himself.

On placekicks, a defender within one yard of the line of scrimmage must have his entire body lined up outside the snapper's shoulder pads.

Plays will now be blown dead if a runner's helmet comes completely off.


Goodell expressed displeasure at the end of the 2009 season with teams resting their starters because playoff berths were clinched.

He said then, "Honestly, we don't have a solution for it. We've had a lot of suggestions. A lot of people have talked about things from making scheduling changes to re-seeding the playoffs. A couple people have suggested the idea of potentially modifying the draft in certain ways. But none of these have been studied in depth.

"The integrity of the game is the most important thing. We want to make sure the games all season long have meaning. We want to make sure the best players are playing to win."

Along those lines, Goodell said a scheduling change is being worked on for the 2010 season to see if there is an effect.

"It is still an issue and I spoke to the Competition Committee about it on Sunday," Goodell said Wednesday. "They addressed it in their report. One of the key things we are doing in the short term is in our scheduling. We are trying to schedule it so that potentially Week 17 will be all division opponents and maybe even a large part of Week 16 games.

"We think that will address this to some extent. It will not necessarily eliminate the issue but the Competition Committee knows, and I've stressed to them, that we need to continue to look at this because it's important for the quality of what we do and for the integrity of our game."

Howard Balzer is the Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange.

Viking Update Top Stories