NFL Owners Punt on Overtime

The NFL owners have met twice since Patrick Mahomes never got a chance play in overtime of the AFC championship game in January — and chose to not even vote on doing anything about it twice.

What did the owners choose to vote on instead?

Things that are commendable enough — such as moving up the starting times for the divisional playoffs to 2:00 PM and 5:30 PM Eastern time to match the times observed in the conference championship games (why they didn't also do this for the wild card games is a mystery), and guaranteeing every market three televised Sunday afternoon games every week (until now, sometimes a particular market only got two, if the local team was playing at home and the other network — FOX or CBS — had the doubleheader privileges that week, or the markets that have two teams — New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco/Oakland — might have also gotten only two Sunday afternoon games) — but things that, from the standpoint of importance, pale in comparison to fixing overtime. (The owners also eliminated one commercial break per quarter during the Super Bowl. Oh, whoop-dee-doo!).

Could you imagine if baseball conducted extra innings by holding a coin toss, whoever won came to bat first, and if they scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning, they won the game? Or instead of a five-minute overtime, the NBA had a rule under which if the team winning the jump ball to start overtime won the game if they scored?

Oh, the owners promised to "revisit" the overtime issue in 2020. We all know how that is going to turn out: they will promise to "revisit" the issue in 2021 after neglecting to vote on it again in 2020!

What will it take to get the owners to give both teams at least one possession in overtime? A team like "America's Team" losing an important game because they lost the coin toss to start overtime and the other team scored a touchdown on their first possession?

And the NFL has changed a lot since the owners approved overtime during the regular season in 1974: In 1977, the average NFL team scored 17.2 points per game. Last season, that average was 23.3 — meaning that a team is more likely to score a touchdown on any given possession today than 40+ years ago.

Are the owners hiding behind the theory that there will be more tie games (during the regular season) if both teams score a TD in overtime? But we all saw how "terrible" allowing games to end in a tie was last season: The Ravens won the AFC North by a half game (10-6 to Pittsburgh's 9-6-1) and the Colts won the AFC's last wild card by a half game (10-6 to Pittsburgh's 9-6-1) — and in the NFC, the Eagles won that conference's last wild card by a half game (9-7 to Minnesota's 8-7-1).

As for the "overreaction" argument: Didn't the owners "overreact" to that pass interference non-call in the NFC championship game by changing the rules on instant replay to henceforth permit such plays to be reviewed at their first meeting in March?

Also at their first meeting in March, the owners approved a new set of tie-breakers designed to pretty much eliminate coin tosses to determine draft choices between teams that had both the same record and played the same strength of schedule the previous season, even if the teams are not in the same conference.

They could do that. Yet they are unable — or unwilling — to get rid of having a coin toss effectively decide a game.

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