Salty NFL fans will now have to pick a different rule to complain about going forward because the league has announced a huge change to its overtime procedure. That change is that both teams are guaranteed a possession if a game goes to an extra period. The new rule will only apply in the playoffs, but that is when it matters the most so it is an acceptable result.
All it took for the NFL to finally do update its outdated overtime rules was a postseason that was heavily influenced by that exact rule. The Buffalo Bills, who you could argue were the best team in the league last year, were knocked out of the playoffs by the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. In that overtime period, Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense never touched the ball. The Chiefs then played another overtime game the next week in the AFC Championship game. They lost that one to the Cincinnati Bengals despite starting out with the ball.
Some people (league officials were probably one of them) used that game to point out that it is possible to win in overtime if you lose the coin toss. And while the Bengals were able to accomplish that, they had to overcome the odds to do so. Before that game, teams that lost the coin toss were 1-10 in overtime games. That is drastically different than the near 50 percent winning percentage of those teams in the regular season.
Pressure to change the overtime rules had been on the league for a while now so there is no way to know if this change was destined to happen regardless of what happened in the 2021 playoffs. But if it took some sad Bills and Chiefs fans to make it happen, I would say it is worth it.
I agree with the league’s decision to only implement the new rule in the playoffs. There is no need to make regular season overtime games longer than they have to be. Many sports have different rulesets in the regular season and playoffs so it is not an absurd idea. Fans also don’t really complain about regular season overtime games so it’s unnecessary to change those rules.
All in all, this is a win for the league, which really needed one. Roger Goodell and the NFL owners don’t have the highest approval rating from the fans so doing something that is almost universally accepted as a win is huge for them. This could be a good start for the league. Listening to the fans and implementing changes they are calling for is absolutely the right thing to do. Hopefully, we see more of this in the future. Knowing the league as well as we do as fans, this probably doesn’t mean anything going forward. Maybe they’ll focus more on stupid taunting rules or mishandle another player’s situation. But maybe they will take the momentum from this overtime rule change and apply that to some other aspects of the game. I vote for the latter but only time will tell what the NFL will do.