The NFL will hold its annual league meeting next week in Florida. While a number of topics will be on the agenda, the thing that outsiders most focus on is the consideration of potential rule changes, and as you would imagine, this year, the focus is on overtime and trying to find ways to allow both teams to possess the ball.
At least as of this time, there are only three rules proposals up for consideration, though that could change. The only proposal from the Competition Committee is to make the changes to the free kick formation implemented last year permanent. The two proposals accepted by teams both concern overtime rules:
By Indianapolis and Philadelphia; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, to allow both teams an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime.
By Tennessee; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, to allow both teams an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime unless the team with the first possession scores a touchdown and a successful two-point Try.
The former is obviously much clearer than the latter. The proposal from the Colts and Eagles simply seeks to guarantee that both teams have the opportunity to possess the football (if one team should fumble, for example, even if it is the first receiving team, that would constitute a possession opportunity).
Tennessee’s proposal feels to me needlessly convoluted and ultimately doesn’t address the many concern that many people (though FAR from everybody) have with overtime rules, which is simply the relatively high probability of games ending with only one team possessing the ball in overtime.
This is especially true in postseason play, where nearly all teams who have received the ball first have gone on to win the game since the current overtime rules were implemented, and the majority of them won the game on the opening drive with the touchdown. The Titans’ proposal makes it just slightly harder by requiring a two-point conversion instead of an extra point, but still allows for a team to be the only one to possess the ball.
The 2021 playoffs had a couple of prominent games that went to overtime, which raised these concerns again. In an early-round match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, the Chiefs received the ball first and scored a touchdown on the opening drive, denying a very hot Buffalo offense a chance to respond.
The Chiefs were on the other end of this a few years ago when the New England Patriots, who like them came back in the fourth quarter to force overtime, received the ball first against them in the AFC conference finals, and scored a touchdown on the opening drive.
I understand that not everybody is in favor of requiring that both teams possess the ball, with one of the arguments being that your defense has to make a play (although I would counter that both defenses should be expected to make a play). I, however, have long been in favor of a rule guaranteeing at least one possession for both teams. I’d like to see the first proposal pass; I don’t think it will.