The National Football League’s overtime rules have been questioned by football fans the world over for many years. I find it particularly frustrating when the team that wins the coin toss marches down the field, kicks a field goal, and game over. This has occurred 55% of the time since the NFL started sudden death overtime in 1974.
I prefer the overtime structures of the Canadian Football League, the American College Football and Canadian University Football. The systems offer an equal number of offensive and defensive possessions to determine the winner.
The Canadian Football League rules for overtime state: If the score is tied at the end of a game, each team gets an opportunity to scrimmage from its opponent’s 35-yard-line, until it makes a score or loses possession. If the score remains tied, the procedure is repeated at the opposite end of the stadium. If the score is still tied after each team has had two attempts, the game is declared a tie if it’s a regular season game. If the game is a playoff or championship game the same procedure continues until a winner is finally decided. This past year the Canadian Football League’s Board of Governors approved a rule change that now has teams that score a touchdown in overtime be required to go for a two-point convert by running or passing the ball into the end zone instead of kicking for a single point. (cfl.ca)
This past spring May 2018, the Canadian Football League’s commissioner called on fans to give their feedback and he asked them to pay particular attention to whether the league’s overtime format could be improved. Fans sent in more than 2,000 rules suggestions, with about 1,500 of them focused on overtime.
The NCAA rules for college football overtime are certainly different from that of the NFL’s. In college football, if two teams are tied after the final whistle of the fourth quarter, the teams will meet at the 50-yard line for another coin flip to determine the possession of the first extra period. The visiting team picks heads or tails. The teams will play extra periods until there is a winner. The order of possession is changed after each period.
The extra period begins at the 25-yard line, and each team is given the opportunity to score a touchdown or field goal. After the fist team completes its drive with a score or turnover, the opposing team has the same opportunity from the 25-yard line. If the teams are still tied after the second team’s possession, they must play another period. If the game goes into a third overtime, they can no longer kick extra points after touchdowns and must instead attempt a two-point conversion. (https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/college-football-overtime-rules-explained)
Canadian college football has a similar set of rules but each team begins from the 35-yard line of the opposing team. (cisfootball.org)
It’s time the NFL gets out of the dark ages and adopts an overtime system similar to that of the CFL and both American and Canadian college leagues. For each team to have the same number of offensive and defensive possessions will not only create balance and fairness. It is long overdue.