How Important is the Coin Flip in OT?

All of our favorite teams have been on the short end of the stick when it comes to sudden death overtime in the NFL. The opposing team wins the coin flip, gets a decent return, completes a couple passes, then kicks a game-winning 40+ yard field goal. Our team never even gets a chance to touch the ball. It's a painful end to an otherwise exciting game.

Everyone knows the coin toss can be decisive. The team that wins the toss instantly becomes favored to win the game, but just how heavily?

From the 2000 through 2007 regular seasons, there have been 124 overtime games. In every single game except one (I believe), the team that won the toss elected to receive. And those receiving teams won 60% of the time (and tied once). That's a relatively large advantage, particularly when compared to home field advantage.

Home teams have only won 51% of OT games. The weakness of HFA isn't too surprising given the way it diminishes throughout a game. It's strongest in the 1st quarter and then diminishes through subsequent quarters until it's almost non-existent in OT. Fans are presumably at their most involved at this point in a game, which suggests crowd involvement is not the primary source of HFA.

The dreaded 'lose-the-coin-toss-never-touch-the-ball' scenario happened in 37 out of the 124 OT periods, or about 30% of all overtime games. That's too often in my opinion. The NFL's current sudden death format can be exciting and lead to quick resolutions. But if almost 1 out of 3 games is over before the unlucky coin toss loser even touches the ball, a lot of teams and fans are going to be left with a bitter and empty feeling.

One suggestion is to go to the college format where each team gets alternating tries to score from the opponent's 25 yd line. It eliminates the never-touch-the-ball problem, but it has its own shortcoming. Namely, the team that gets its possession second has a distinct advantage because it knows exactly what type of score is needed to tie or win. For example, if the first team doesn't score at all, the second doesn't need to risk passing and can safely run 3 times before kicking an easy field goal. Or, if the first team scores a touchdown, the second team knows it must forego the field goal and go for the touchdown, even on 4th down if necessary.

The NCAA mitigates the advantage of going second by alternating the order on successive rounds. But the team that goes second in the first round will have the overall advantage because there are many more 1, 3, or 5 round overtimes than 2, 4, or 6 round overtimes. But the overall advantage is estimated to be small, at about 52%.

Although I like the NCAA format, I'd make a couple changes. First, no field goals. This has two effects. First, it eliminates the advantage of the team to go second. Both teams simply need a touchdown, period. Second, it puts the game solely in the hands of the offenses and defenses, and not in those of an individual place kicker.

Because removing field goals might prolong the game excessively, I'd add another requirement. Only 2-point conversions would be allowed. In the NCAA, teams are forced to go for 2-pt conversions
if no team has won by the 3rd round. But I'd institute that rule beginning with the 1st round, maybe the second.

Unfortunately, a lot of fans find that the NCAA format is not "pure" football. And I sympathize with that opinion, so here are a few more suggestions.

One idea is to play a semi-sudden death format. The current system would be kept, except that a winner is declared only after one team is ahead after an equal number of possessions. So if the initial receiving team scored first, the other team would receive a kick-off and have an opportunity to tie or win. I like this idea, except that from the NFL's point of view, OT games would last longer and ties would be more common. It might also suffer from an advantage problem, because a team in the score-or-die situation would have the same advantage that the team to go second in the NCAA format has.

David Romer's suggestion is to move the kickoff line from the 30 to the 40 in overtime to help equalize the chance of either team scoring first. This would drastically increase touchbacks, which according to Romer would halve the receiving team's advantage. Starting at the 15 yd line is the theoretical neutral point in the NFL, where both teams have an equal chance of scoring next.

This guy makes a related observation. In 1994, the NFL moved the kickoff line from the 40 to the 30 to reduce touchbacks and increase scoring. But unwittingly, this change also increased the frequency of the never-touch-the-ball phenomenon in OT.

Another idea is to have dueling kickoffs. Both teams would return a kickoff, and the team with the furthest return gets possession at the start of the sudden-death period.

Perhaps the silliest but most original idea is the field position bid. Both teams would submit a secret bid of how far back they'd be willing to start with the ball. The team that bids the deepest in its own territory would get the ball there. A football version of Name That Tune, I suppose.

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99 Responses to “How Important is the Coin Flip in OT?”

  1. Chris says:

    "From the 2000 through 2007 regular seasons, there have been 124 overtime games. In every single game except one (I believe), the team that won the toss elected to receive. And those receiving teams won 60% of the time (and tied once). That's a relatively large advantage, particularly when compared to home field advantage."

    May I ask the source of this information? I'd like to know the numbers from 1974-2007.

  2. Brian says:

    I think that at the end of a tie game in the 4th quarter, both teams' efficiency stats from the game should be plugged into your win prediction model. The team that comes out on top gets the ball in overtime. I'm gonna send this suggestion over to Roger Goodell right now. I think it's got some legs.

  3. bigdogwdae says:

    I can tell you that the very first OT game in 74 ended in a 35-35 tie!
    Also trying to go to the college rule would not really work. The main reason is that in college you have a much bigger roster to be able to play multiple possessions, then you do in the NFL. Players are a major commodity in the NFL and highly paid. There would be no way that the owners would ever expose their players to chance of injuries for that long unless it was in the playoffs.

  4. lost in thought says:

    "Starting at the 15 yd line is the theoretical neutral point in the NFL, where both teams has an equal chance of scoring next."

    How about giving the coin toss winner the option of starting at its own 15 yard line or letting the other team do so?

  5. Eddo says:

    Or, you could have the teams play until one team has (1) the lead and (2) possession at the end of a play.

    Therefore, if the first team scores a FG and the second scores a TD, the first team will get the ball back with a chance to win.

    The college system also leads to funky stats and such; it's an even wackier way to decide a game than a shootout in hockey or soccer.

    The most interesting idea I heard came from Football Outsiders, where the coin toss winner proposes a generic starting field position. The other team then gets to decide which teams starts with the ball.

    This way, Team A could propose the 50 yard line. Team B would gladly take the ball. But if Team A proposes the 15 yard line, then Team B has a more complicated choice.

  6. Jero says:

    What about taking the semi-sudden death proposal and simplifying it? Each team gets at least one possession, not neccessarily an equal number.

    Extraordinary case being the DAL-ARI game in Week 6: game over with the blocked punt return. Ditto with a safety on the opening possession.

    Refrain from introducing a separate set or, modification of rules similar to the NHL. The NCAA style/NHL shootouts are entertaining but, seem to take away from the nature of play.

  7. Z says:

    I seem to be in the minority as a fan who actually prefers the coin flip to the other scenarios.

    Think of it from the perspective of one team entering overtime:

    Yes, there's a 30% chance that the team who wins the toss will immediately score and win. But there's only a 15% chance that will be your opponent.

    Thus, along with a 70% chance that both teams will touch the ball, one individual team entering overtime has an 85% chance of getting at least one possession.

    Not only can I live with those odds, I think most NFL teams should be OK with that as well. Plus, most alternative scenarios take special teams out of play in overtime, which seems to be a shame. Funny that this was brought up in a week when Arizona didn't even need a possession to win in OT. They just needed their special teams.

  8. Chase says:

    I've got two thoughts.

    1) There's nothing wrong with a tie. In fact, a tie is the preferable way of deciding a game that's deadlocked after four quarters. But for playoff games:

    2) There's no reason to have a secret bid -- have a wide open bid. Offer the ball to the home team at the 20. If they say yes, offer the ball to the road team at the 19. If they say yes, offer the ball back to the home team at the 18, and on and on until someone doesn't want the ball.

    Lots of other solutions discussed in the link on my name.

  9. Anonymous says:

    complicated solutions just simply will not work (i.e. college rules, eliminating FGs, etc).

    The most simple is the best, move the kickoff slightly, so that there is a 50% chance of winning (i.e. Romer is correct). Perhaps some tweaking of the actual spot is required (perhaps the 38 yard line for kickoff).

    -bob

  10. Joe says:

    I tend to agree with anonymous bob- complicated solutions will not work.

    But I have one that I think would be really fun to watch. Semi Sudden Death: Same as sudden death if first team scores a touchdown. If the first team scores a feild goal the second team gets a possestion to try and tie or win.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The team with the slowest average 40 time should obviously start with the ball in OT. They are at a distinct disadvantage and must be compensated.

    In the event that teams are equal slow, we can have the starting Punters from each side wrestle at the 50 yard line.

  12. Anonymous says:

    What about keeping sudden death but disallowing field goals?

  13. Phil Birnbaum says:

    1. I don't find the bidding option silly at all. The open bid works well for me.

    2. Why not just place the ball at the 15, if that's the breakeven point? You lose the excitement of the kickoff, I suppose, but you make the game fairer.

    3. Or, why not just play another 15 minutes? I mean, what's the big deal that the game has to end sooner?

  14. Brian Burke says:

    Or how about another twist? What if the winner of the auction (the team that bids the deepest in its own territory) gets the ball where the other team bid? (I can't remember the formal name for this type of auction.) That way both teams have an increased incentive to bid deep.

    I think that the auction-type solutions would possibly devolve quickly to an equilibrium where all coaches bid the same standard yd-line, and we'd be back where we started needing some sort of tie breaker anyway.

  15. Phil Birnbaum says:

    Hmmmm ... wouldn't the team that's better offensively (I guess adjusted for the other team's defense) win the bidding?

    If Brett Favre can score 50% of the time from the 15, and Joe Nobody can score 50% of the time from the 25 ... no, I guess you're right, they'd both bid "20" and you'd need a coin flip.

    Geez, just play another quarter. :)

  16. Rigil Kent says:

    But what about just letting teams tie in the regular season? It's such an unlikely event anyway.
    Then I would adopt the NCAA format with no field goals for the playoffs.
    A

  17. Anonymous says:

    or why not make it simple? A full quarter of football?

  18. Anonymous says:

    I have a better overtime idea. I can't see how this is unfair in any way. JUST KEEP PLAYING!

    Don't stop the game when time runs out just add 15 minutes to the clock and keep going. The first team to score in "extra time" wins!

    This rule would allow for some really exciting strategy decisions late in tied games. It would also COMPLETELY eliminate late game conservative play calling. No more playing for overtime.

    Mike in KC

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why does the nfl have overtime? why bother with OT if there can still be a tie? just let games end in ties after 4 quarters.
    for playoffs play as many quarters as it takes for someone to win.
    By the way: a playoff team could be decided by a coin flip, its highly ulikely but its in the rules. If all other steps 1-11 are exhausted and the playoff teams are not decide ie wildcard spots, then the nfl uses a coin flip to decide the playoff team

  20. Anonymous says:

    "And those receiving teams won 60% of the time (and tied once). That's a relatively large advantage, particularly when compared to home field advantage."

    I would like to know the source of your info.

    -Jimbo

  21. Brian Burke says:

    Jimbo-The source is all regular season NFL gamebooks from 2000-2007

  22. JMM says:

    I also believe the tie should be allowed. Ties should reduce the use of silly tie-breakers at year end for playoff spots.

    Has anyone ever looked at the 124 OT games and established what impact, if any, they had on the standings?

  23. James says:

    why not keep things as they are but alter the choices the winner of the coin toss at the start of the game can make. Either they can recieve the kickoff at the start of both halfs of regulation but do not recieve the kickoff in overtime (if it occurs) or they elect to recieve the kickoff in any potentisal overtime situation but give the other team the ball at the start of the first and second halfs. I think this could even things out as the extra posssesion is probably equal to the OT advantage although I don;t have any numbers to prove it. If 6% (my guess) of games go to OT and the coin toss winners win 60 % then choosing the OT option would win 50.6% of games. Is this more or less than recieving the ball at thestart of both halves.

  24. Jason says:

    I think, in the old World League of American Football from the early 90s, the OT rule was that if a team led by 7 (or more) points at any time, they were declared the winner. Otherwise, the team with the highest score at the end of OT was the winner. That way, you at least would have to score a TD on your opening possession to win outright, and would likely give the other team a chance with the ball if not.

  25. Dale says:

    how about the team that has the ball at the end of the 4th quarter retain the ball in overtime, and play for a full quarter, no sudden death, and no field goals( no three pointer and no one pointers) only touch downs and 2 point conversions, now that's a fair overtime system, no stupid coin toss no sudden death, just a full fifteen minutes(this would only apply to play off games) and eliminating field goals for extra points means you are now playing football old school

  26. RTh says:

    In the regular season, all such games should just be ties.

    In the postseason, the splitting the overtime pizza proposal suggested by FO should be used.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Why is the entire world obsessed with kinky overtime rules? The best solution is to have a 10 minute overtime period. The team winning at the end of the 10 minutes is the winner. A time-limit OT would be best, because it would force teams to manage the clock, utilize timeouts properly, and set up more interesting game-winning scenarios just like the ones we always see at the end of the 4th quarters. Duh.

  28. Kelly says:

    I hate the college system. It's just too gimmicky.

    Personally, I like the last idea, where a team that gives up a score get's one chance to tie or win the game.

  29. Anonymous says:

    How about leave it alone. Football is not about “giving” anyone anything. Make a play! To suggest that both teams have the ball is ridiculous. Arizona won a game this year by blocking a punt and recovering for a touchdown. They made a play.

    If 30% of teams win without the other team touching the ball that means 70% of the time both teams get a chance to get the ball.

    I watched Inside the NFL the stats are right from 2000-2007, however, if you use the stats from 1974 the team who wins the flip wins 48% of the time. By the way, what percentage should a team win 50-50? No! It depends on who makes more plays in a given situation.

    Special teams are a part of the game if your team allows a long return for a td in sudden death, you deserve to lose the game.

  30. David Borough says:

    I think the best solution is the semi-sudden death.

    The game should end in the 4th quarter as it always has, continued play through the 4th would change way too much about the nature of the REGULATION PERIOD.

    There should be a coin flip. Team decide to receive or kick. One possession for first team -- score, turnover, or punt. If there is a lead after the 1st possession of the second team, the game is over. Sudden death from there. Problem solved -- doesn't require much more time than normal.

    You COULD require moving the kick, but I think since both teams get the ball at least once, it's equal.

    ARIZONA's blocked field goal, a pick 6, fumble 6, or a safety by the 1st defense, wins the game (change of possession, and a leader, game over).

  31. Anonymous says:

    I'm down with the suggestion of having the lead AND the ball in order to Win. I had a similar thought (which was admittedly more complicated) in which a team who is temporarily behind has a limit of 2 minutes to score.

    This would keep overtime fast paced and exciting. Market it as a "2-Minute Drill."

    I wonder how teams winning on the first possession relate to the tied score after the 4th quarter. In high scoring games I would presume the coin toss plays a much larger factor in determining the outcome.

    --Crayton

  32. Anonymous says:

    The NFL "coin flip" rule that is used to award possession of the ball at the start of overtime is unfair. The most equitable solution is also the simplest:

    Skip the flip. Just keep playing. First team to score wins.

    There are six reasons why this method is an improvement over the current rule:

    1) More exciting games. For example, a team trailing 38-31 scores a touchdown on the last play of regulation. Under the current rules, they will kick the extra point to force overtime. The new rules will encourage them to try for two and end the game, since they will kick off if the game goes to overtime.

    2) No more "playing for overtime". Assume that a team is pinned at their own 2-yard line with 1:17 remaining in the 4th quarter, and the other team has one timeout. They currently can take a knee for two or three plays to force OT. That could not occur under the new rule.

    3) The defense would not need to be on the field for two consecutive possessions.

    4) The players and coaches maintain control of the game. The flow of the game is not interrupted by starting over and arbitrarily giving the ball to one team.

    5) The receiving team typically starts at their own 20 or 30-yard line after the kickoff under the coin flip rule. With the new rules, the team with the ball could be anywhere on the field (at midfield, on average) when overtime starts, and the game should end sooner.

    6) Under current rules, the teams switch sides of the field at the end of the 5th, 6th or any subsequent quarters. Since there is no coin flip at the end of the 6th quarter, why is there one at the end of the 4th quarter?

    When the overtime period starts, teams will switch sides and start with two timeouts, as they do now. "Sudden death" is the best way to play overtime – this new method is a sensible and fair way to get there.

  33. Ian says:

    I like the idea of moving the kickoff for OT. Touchbacks still placed at the 20 so there is no advantage to the kicking team if they choose to boot it deep into the endzone.

    It would be interesting to look at the numbers to see where the kickoff should be taken from to give an average starting field position of the 15, the point where both sides have an even chance of the next score - all else being equal.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I find this all very silly. Football is entertaining because it is sometimes unpredictable. You can have teams that are not necessarily the best teams winning because of the phenomenal efforts of a single player or one truly amazing play. Why do we want football to be so fair and equal, like its checkers or something? I'd rather keep it the way it is.

  35. drichters says:

    The coin flip is fair already. Each team has a 50% chance of winning the flip. It would also be fair if there were no football in OT, the winner of the flip simply won the game. That would be fair but it would suck because the coin flip determines the game outcome which isn't entertaining. It doesn't feel right that the coin flip should determine the victor rather than the players and coaches. Right now the winners of the coin flip win 60% of the time. I'd prefer to see the winner of the flip win 50%.

    This comment is directed towards the chorus of people who say the OT rules should not be altered because defense and special teams are part of the game, etc. Giving importance to the coin flip takes importance away from the players and coaches.

  36. Justin says:

    I realize that I'm commenting on an old article, but after just having read your article refuting the "Curse of 370" (or at least refuting the statistics behind it), I can't help but point out that it seems you're doing the same thing of which you accused FO. You're using multiple endpoints. At least, I don't think you gave any good reason for only choosing the years 2000 to 2007.

    They've been doing sudden death overtime since 1974, so why not start with that year? Because the team who won the toss only won 48% of the time (as anonymous pointed out on 01/17/09) and that doesn't help your argument? Is there some real reason why you only chose the last few years?

  37. Brian Burke says:

    Justin-Those years are the only years for which I had data. Multiple endpoints would have been if I had a whole bunch more years, say '74-'08, and wanted to make a case that the coin flip mattered a lot. I would choose particular endpoints of years that would exaggerate the importance of the coin flip based after seeing the results. I haven't done that here.

    But on the other hand, there is a good reason for only choosing recent years. FG kicking has become so much better since '74 that it has been one of the main contributers to the current imbalance. Previously, teams had to drive to the 25 for a decent chance at a FG. Now, they have a decent shot from the 35. Plus, since then the kick-off spot was moved from the 40 to the 30, which has also affected the importance of the coin flip.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Why did you bother blogging? You offer nothing better than the articles you linked.

  39. Brian Burke says:

    Gosh, you're right. And think of all the thousands of other people who wasted their time reading, enjoying, and discussing this article.

    Why do you bother leaving antisocial comments on websites?

  40. Anonymous says:

    how bout a 8 min overtime and if at the end of that its still a tie then both teams lose...

  41. foodmetaphors says:

    I like the idea of continuing play with the current sudden death rules. if the game is tied and the home team has a 2nd and 11 at their own 37, then OT period starts just like that (after switching sides of the field). Both teams get their 2 timeouts and 1 challenge, and I also like the idea of reducing the quarter length to 10 or something.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with the "keep playing, just add time". It completely removes the issues and allows the teams to decide through play and smart game management. Also, it seems unfair to me if a team ties it up at the very end of regulation and then gets the ball first in overtime.

  43. Tomb says:

    The most informative records would seem to average 1/3 ties, which we're currently nowhere near, so I'm for eliminating OT in the regular season.

    It's hard to understand those who are comfortable with the randomness of the current rules. If randomness is ok, how about deciding the whole game by coin toss? The claim that it's perfect as it is is suspicious given the speed at which the game's rules change and always have.

    I say eliminate both coin tosses. The distribution of the 2 decisions should be based on homefield so as to minimize it the latter as a factor. It may be helpful to change the choices themselves. One commenter suggested giving one team the choice of receiving the 1st and 2nd half kickoffs or the overtime kickoff, but the implication that the 2 choices are of similar value probably comes from the same fallacy by which the Vice President is assumed to have more power than a Senator.

  44. Tomb says:

    The OT receiving advantage is basically some probability .5 < O < 1 of getting one more possession than the opponent. Each of the 2 regulation receiving advantages is one .5 < R < O. In other words, though the OT advantage is superior (because of less time remaining before the end of the possession sequence)to a single regulation advantage, it's inferior to the sum of the 2 regulation advantages and would never rationally be chosen.

    That said, up to 3 (1st quarter, 3rd quarter, and OT) or even 5 choices of endzone, not to mention homefield advantage, could be added to OT reception, and there are enough other possible distributions that its safe to assume an equal one is possible.

    As for other proposals, starting from the 15 seems most reasonable. The possession-and-a-lead rule, on the other hand, fails to eliminate the receiving team's advantage:

    Suppose after 2 drives Team A has scored and Team B hasn't. Is the game over? That depends on who was the receiving team. If Team B, Team B gets another shot.

    Others have mentioned an information gap, which would make both electing to receive in regulation and electing to receive under possession-and-a-lead less valuable. I understand that an offense is aided by knowledge of what the opposing offense did, but isn't a defense also aided by knowledge of what their own team's offense did? For example, Team A goes up by 7 so Team A goes with a prevent defense.

    One minor problem I see with just-keep-playing is that it seems to increase the impact of the initial coin toss. Receiving first in OT is especially valuable because OT is short. Adding OT to the second half lengthens the latter, thus decreasing the value of receiving first in the 2nd half, thus increasing the value of electing to receive first in the 1st half. If I'm not mistaken, the latter is already the favorite choice.

  45. Dan says:

    The college tie-break is gimmicky and doesn't incorporate field position or special teams--i.e., it doesn't have enough in common with football. There's a reason we don't decide tied baseball games with home run hitting contests or soccer games with penalty shootouts (OK, sometimes they do, unfortunately).

    The current system is "fair." It might or might not favor the team that wins the flip (that's still debatable, despite what your small 2000-2007 data set says), but it's not unfair; it just might entail some random luck (like many other parts of the game). So I think it's pretty good as-is. It's also very exciting.

    However, if one wishes to reduce random luck, I agree that moving the kickoff to the 40 would be good.

    Actually, one of the bidding ideas would be best because they do away with chance, enter more strategy into the game, and maintain the integrity of winning the game with all aspects of the game (offense, defense, special teams, coaching).

  46. John says:

    I admittedly didn't read all the suggestions, so this may have been said already. I think the secret bidding system would be the best, but I don't really think it is something that would be heavily supported. I think a coin should be flipped and the winner should be able to choose whether to start on their own 15 or have the opposing team start on their own 15.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Ill take the wind in OT

  48. Anonymous says:

    It makes a great deal of sense to eliminate the field goal from the OT - it is too easy to kick a field goal and win the game.

    It also makes sense to require that both teams have an equal amount of possessions.

    There is no way to completely eliminate the advantage of going second, however these two ideas appear to even things up as much as possible.


    The NFL should not be concerned about the game going too long - who cares? Give them 2 OT periods, I seem to remember that at some point.


    The rules should be changed. The coin flip appears to have a 20% influence on the outcome of the game, that is too much.



    .

  49. Marver says:

    Why not give each team one possession and the team that advances furthest down the field wins. Although the second team knows where it needs to get, it really isn't an advantage until it gets very, very close to the distance the other team got...and even then the opponent wouldn't care about throws going considerably past the marker. You could even eliminate 4th down and essentially make the game about who can drive further down the field following a kickoff.

  50. Stefan says:

    I had an interesting overtime idea. Maybe not such a serious idea, but it would certainly be fun. It's like sudden death, but instead of losing when the other team scores, you lose when you turn the ball over. It's like a defensive version of what we have now.

    So, you throw a pick, fumble, or fail on 4th down, and you lose. The offense has to basically drive into field goal range and kick it through to keep the game going and then their defense has to get a stop. Points don't matter as long as you get some. It would be great to watch just because the game could be won on almost any play.

  51. CP says:

    Ties are OK!??? Ties are for soccer. We'er Americans and we don't believe in ties.

    Play a shortened quarter, that is completely obviously the easiest and most logical answer. But who gets the ball?

    Each team lines up on it's own goal line. The ball is placed on the 50. On a whistle, both teams run full speed to try and get the ball, fumble recovery style. The team that comes up with the ball recieves the kick.

    Better yet, let the team mascots fight at mid-field, winner gets the ball...

    Even better, put 21 chairs in two long rows, back to back and start playing "old MacDonald had a farm over the P.A. ....

    But seriously, each team distributes 11 players around the field just out of bounds any place they want. A lucky fan is selelcted who gets to go to the highest point in the stadium with the ball. From there, the fan throws the ball out onto the field. The instant the ball hits the ground, all 22 players are free to enter the field and try and recover the ball. Wouldn't that be fun to watch?

    Or, just keep it like it is, but the team that wins the toss and gets the ball must tie all the shoe laces of their offensive line together for the entire posession.

    Just trying to help.

  52. John says:

    can anyone tell me where to get nfl game books from 1994-2000. nfl.com just has them from 2001 and on. specifically i am looking for the coin flip results for OT games.

  53. Moises says:

    A few suggestions that I haven't seen mentioned.

    - Sudden Death with a minimum of six points scored in OT (so a FG gives opponents a possession, but a TD wins it, a second FG wins it, and a 3-0 wins it after fifteen minutes)

    - First Down and Twenty for overtime (It modifies the nature of the game, but would likely reduce the likeliness of one-drive overtimes)

    - And here's a radical one. May look outrageous at first, but if you think about it, it's not that bad, really. The main issue with it is that it only works for the regular season. It goes like this: When the game is tied at end of regulation... GAME OVER! A tie would be a valid result.

  54. Anonymous says:

    If you do the math, this 30% of overtime matches affect by this comes out to be about 1 game in 200 for any given team, so probably once every 10 or 11 seasons assuming some playoff activity.

    Further, you're all looking at that 30% as though the coin toss is honestly beating teams, and there's no chance that a reasonable amount of time (like, half? :P) the better team is going to get it, and a certain percentage of that time (maybe half again), they'll score, because they're better. There's 25% accounted for that you're blaming on a quarter :P

  55. Anonymous says:

    I give Colin Cowherd credit (something I'm loathe to do) for giving me the first part of this idea. His suggestion was that the road team gets the ball to start OT, no matter what (based on the assumption that they are at a natural disadvantage). My tweak to it would be that the winner of the game-opening coin flip gets their choice in OT too.

    This allows for strategic and exciting play at the end of regulation to mitigate the randomness of the coin flip, and also might decrease the raw number of OT games (something the NFL's competition committee would like). If you're tied late in the game, but know the other team will start with the ball in OT, you'll take greater risks to attempt to score or force turnovers, depending on whether or not you have the ball.

  56. loldonkaments says:

    There were ties in the NFL until 1974, were we just a bunch of commies back then? All these contortions become silly after a while (the NCAA is already there). Let the game end in a tie, which actually may make for some more ingenious (and possibly macho-induced boneheadedry) strategic decison-making.

  57. Anonymous says:

    We've all watched games in which our favorite team has won in OT and lost in OT, with or without winning the coin toss. The coin toss isn't everything. Even in OT there are multiple times where some random act could have gone the other way.

    Take the GB/AZ game from this past weekend for example. On the first play from scrimmage in OT, Rodgers overthrew an open receiver on a bomb that could have gone for a touchdown. Instead it was an incomplete pass, and he ends up taking a sack/fumble that costs his team the game. But what if he held on to the ball? What if the ball had bounced the other way when he dropped it, GB recovered, and he throws for a first down on the next play? There are many more factors that come into play during the course of a football game than who wins the OT coin toss.

    There is no perfect system. And are we fogetting how much money is involved in the NFL? It's no wonder that the owners have not voted to change sudden death OT, lest they give more opportunity for another one of their star players to get injured.

    It's a crazy sport, and anything can happen. Isn't that why America loves it in the first place?!

  58. Anonymous says:

    Still better than that thing college does, where they eliminate special teams, field position, certain styles of defense and just hand the ball to team already in scoring position.
    Thats not even the game of football.

  59. Anonymous says:

    My 2 cents:
    As usual simple is best.
    1)Use the opening coin toss to determine who receives the ball first in OT. In other words, just keep the original pattern going as if it's the start of another half.
    2)Allow each team one possession.
    3)Call it a tie if it is after 1 and 2 above.
    I like this because its simple, fair and they are
    still playing football with all phases of the game intact. The likelihood of injury is not greatly increased.

    One further comment: The oft quoted percentage of
    48% of the coin toss winner winning the game is
    true since its inception. But (and its a big but) the 2000-2007 60% winning percentage is due
    to rule changes that favor the offense. I can't think of a new NFL rule in the last 20 years that favored the defense. So the coin toss should become more skewed over time and require a change to maintain integrity. Unless of course you just wanna get it over with under a false pretense.
    Regards, Paul B.

  60. Gary says:

    I still want to know about the OT where the team that won the toss elected to kick off. What was the story there?

  61. James says:

    I can't believe this discussion has been going on for two years! That's amazing...I think the extra time rule is better. It works in Soccer.

  62. James says:

    Don't know if this was suggested already but what about:

    Team with possesion at end of regulation get's ball.
    Game ends only if a touchdown + conversion puts the team in the lead. IE they trailed by less than 7 points on a 1 point conversion and less than 8 on a 2 point conversion. Team with highest score at end of both halfs wins should no team get a touchdown.

  63. James says:

    Adding time to the end of the game and see who comes out on top should win...It seems fair, to keep the game going and witnessing an unfair ending like tonight's.

  64. GG says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  65. GG says:

    My suggestion for OT.

    Coin toss.
    Team #1 starts with ball on their own 30 yard line.
    They get to use all 4 downs to get first downs and move into FG range or score a TD.
    If they fail, Team #2 starts with ball at their own 30 yard line.
    They get to use all 4 downs to get first downs and move into FG range or score a TD.
    Object of OT is similar to NCAA rules...each team gets possession to outscore the other team's effort with their possession.
    The game can end just like the NFL tho, where if Team #1 turns the ball over via interception or fumble and the other team recovers, they get possession for this drive from here for only this drive.
    If Team #1 threw an interception on their first drive and Team #2 actually took it back to the house, the game would end immediately, as Team #1's first offensive go already resulted in them being behind 0-6. Game over.
    If Team #1 fumbled, and Team #2 recovered, and they make a few plays then kick a FG, same deal---game over.
    But if Team #2 itself fails to convert a TD or FG from this point. Then it would go back to Team #1 getting possession again from their own 30. Then Team #2 would get their next go from their own 30 next time.
    Kickers still important, but punting eradicated.

  66. GG says:

    I think mine is the best idea because you start on your own 30, and have to actually work to get into a scoring position. The D isnt made irrelevant like in the NCAA version. But it does find a way to give both teams an equal shot, whilst keeping it "like football" and D relevant.

  67. Anonymous says:

    Peter King mentioned in his MMQB today that since the 1974 coin toss rule change 7 teams have elected to kick after winning the toss. I'm wondering who those teams were and what were the results? Anyone have an answer to that? I'm trying my best to find out the answer through Google but having no luck.

  68. Anonymous says:

    They should not change anything about OT rules. It's perfect the way it is. If you want to win, and you lose the toss, then play defense. People are whining about Favre not being able to get a chance. He did! He blew it in the 4th quarter by throwing a pick on what could have been game winning drive. Team with more turnovers usually lose the game, deservedly so!

  69. Weston says:

    Adding "extra time" and keep playing?! That's retarded. That eliminates the whole point of having a clock, time-outs and playing to win in 60 minutes. OT is to decide a winner quickly. Unless you're Donovan McNabb and don't know that games could end in a tie.

  70. Anonymous says:

    why not just play another quarter ... maybe only 10 minutes rather than 15 like a normal quarter. this would keep plays we all love to see still possibly happen such as the onside kick by a team behind with little time left, the 2-point conversion which has disappeared in sudden death and everyone's favorite the hail mary! NONE of these happen in sudden death. It also lessens how crucial the coin flip is.

  71. Anonymous says:

    Start each offense at 10 yard line, goal to go. Each team gets a chance. Keep going until 2nd team doesn't tie. This would likely keep both regular season OT short enough for NFL requirements, while eliminating ties, and keeping rules same for regular season and playoffs. No special teams, though (oh, well).

    Personally, I like mano e mano sudden death. Field goal kickers each get a chance, continuing to move further from the goal until the first one misses. Then, do the same with the QB to a single unguarded receiver in the end zone: QBs move further back until one of them misses.

    Finally - The head coaches run laps. First one to collapse loses.

  72. Anonymous says:

    I'm in agreement with many of the posts stating the best OT is to simply play an extra 10-minute period. If still tied, play another 8-minute period. To those who say the players will be too tired...too bad. The better conditioned or deeper team will (and should) have the advantage. Also, no gimmicks - all rules are exactly the same as regulation.

    However, if the NFL says sudden-death is the only way to go, and we all agree the team with the ball first has the advantage, ditch the coin-toss and MAKE THEM EARN IT.

    My suggestion: the team with the greatest total yards gets the ball first. This encompasses the offense, defense, and special teams so it doesn't favor one team (or style) over another. In the unlikely event that total yards are identical, the tiebreaker is time of possession. If still equal (what are the odds!), the 2nd tiebreaker is fewest penalty yards.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Keep sudden death, but game CANNOT END ON A FG. Game can only end on a TD or turnover on downs. FG's can still be scored, but now it's more of a decision because the other team is gonna get the ball and your D will have to stop them. If they come back and score a FG. You get another possession. If you stop them on a 4th down, or they miss a GF attempt - You win, game over. If they score a TD on the following possession - They win, game Over.

  74. Anonymous says:

    Where are all of your resources???

  75. Anonymous says:

    You could just continue the game normally like you would at the end of the 1st or 3rd quarter and add another 15:00 to the game.

  76. Anonymous says:

    doing it by a teams yardage is moronic, why dont you think it thru before you post, turnovers, short fields limit a teams from needing big yardage, and for all you just add another quarter morons...never mind ..THINK..WHY YOU CANNOT DO IT EHAT WAY!!!!!!

  77. Chris says:

    The only moron here is an anonymous commenter who doesn't have brain enough to engage in civil conversation and rather attacks a person rather than an argument. I don't think anyone has said Total Yards is some sort of panacea, but the point is that at least in that situation there is strategy involved in the game. If you're way behind in yards to that point of the game you have to factor in that you won't be getting the ball first in overtime (thus you are to blame if you don't go all out to win in regulation). If its close it invites strategy of attempting to get or keep the total yardage advantage. If you want to attack the idea, present an argument. For example, yardage in a game often isn't determined until days after the fact as they adjust by a yard here or there up until the Wednesday after the fact, so they would need to implement some sort of "official" yardage in game stat. Not sure if they want to do that. As for turnovers, yes there are less yards to get, but if you are the team benefiting from so many turnovers that you are way behind in the yardage battle....then why didn't you win in regulation. My guess you aren't the better team (i.e. the Saints on the field in the NFC championship game)

  78. BP says:

    How about a 3:00 timed period with 3 timeouts per team. No sudden death. No score after 3 minutes? Coin flip and do it again with 3 more timeouts per team. No score again? Do the 3 minutes again or call it a tie if regular season. Yes, the other team might not get a chance on offense, but I think this would be eliminated with the timeouts.

    What's the argument against having a non-sudden death extra period like in basketball?

  79. Anonymous says:

    I like the idea of a semi sudden death. With the caveat that it can't (or at least shouldn't) end in a tie. If the first team to score gets a FG, the second must score a TD or lose. If the first team gets a TD, the second must go for two in order to win or lose.

  80. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the guy that commented before me

  81. John says:

    If 50% of the time you win the coin toss and that winner has only wins the game 10% more than the flip losser that is not a enough of a unfair advanage to warrant a rule change. The game is offence vs defence. If your defence can step up and take away that 10%. Thats re-enforces the premise that defence wins chanpionships

  82. Peter says:

    It would be nice if someone could come up with the stats of how long on average it takes in the NFL for two teams to have diverging outcomes of their possessions starting from the opening kickoff. (I.e. if team 1 had TD, FG, punt, TD as their first four possessions, and team 2 had TD, punt, punt, TD), the outcomes would have diverged in possession 2. I'm fairly certain the vast majority of games would have something different by the completion of the third cycle. How often do you really see each team match score for score, punt/turnover for punt/turnover? I imagine the "four down territory" in overtime for the team that has 2nd possession will increase the likelihood of matching possessions (since a punt has a 0% chance of resulting in a score). But it can't be THAT bad, especially for playoff overtime. Perhaps the simplest solution would be for the NFL to allow "tops" - the team receiving the ball 2nd would always get a chance to match. This would allow the game to progress regularly with field position and punting. However, if the teams trade equal scores in a matching "inning", then the order is reversed and the 2nd team will immediately receive the kickoff again for the next cycle.

  83. Peter says:

    Here's another idea. This one is not nearly as simple as the matching possessions, but it could make the overtime much shorter. If the first team scores, the second team has to either exceed the score, or score the same amount of points in fewer plays to win the game. If they happen to score the same amount of points in the exact same number of plays, then a second overtime is played. So if the Patriots kick off in overtime and the Colts return it for a touchdown and and extra point, the Patriots must get a kick return for a touchdown to extend the game.

  84. Anonymous says:

    pja in nh

    8 minute OT.
    Each team has 3 timeouts. You play the whole 8 minutes.

    coin flip as normal. It is very difficult for a team to hold the ball for 8 minutes AND thru 3 opponents timeouts, and a 2 minute warning. Thus both teams will get the ball a VERY high % of the time, and we get to relive the most exciting part of a close football game, which is usually the final 3 minutes.

    If still tied, repeat. These *2* overtimes are only slightly more playing time than 1 full 15 minute period, plus the plethora of timeouts should make it a bit easier on the players.

    If STILL tied, have a FG kicking contest...longest one wins. similar to a shootout....lol

  85. Anonymous says:

    Brian, any thoughts on the current rule change?

  86. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know what the rule will be regarding safety's? What happens is a team gets the ball first, kicks a fg, then kicks off, then gets a safety? Do they win or do they have to receive again? If they have to receive again, it would suck if they threw an INT and it was returned for a defensive TD.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Umm.... Home Field Advantage should be modeled as a constant throughout a game and OT. If the two teams are tied after regulation, it means that they are about equal WITH Home Field Advantage considered, so no surprise that it's close to 50%/50% home vs away wins. You have 60 minutes of data that says the away team is about equal to the home team + HFA on that day.

  88. Brian Burke says:

    Um. Not true. HFA is strongest in the 1st qtr and disappears by OT.

  89. Anonymous says:

    The easiest solution to the OT problem is to leave everything as-is, except remove the one element of luck - the random coin toss. Once the 4th Q ends, transition just as you do between Q1 and Q2 - no kickoff, continue at same down/distance and let the first team who scores win. That way, both teams know the rules and what they have to do and how they should manage the clock and it is predictable. And furthermore, if a team drove to score as time expires, they should have to put up their defense and not get two possessions in a row against a tired defense.

  90. Anonymous says:

    The three ideas I like are:

    1) Let there be ties.
    2) The team who had the ball at the end of regulation must kick off. (This would make for some complicated strategy at end of regulation.)
    3) Semi-sudden. Same rules as now, but game isn't over until you have lead and the ball.

    I like #3 the best. Seems most fair, and likely won't add much more time than sudden death.

  91. Anonymous says:

    Do not change a thing with NFL coin toss OT.

    It only needs to be changed if the team winning the coin toss (and decides to receive) scores on the first drive more than 50% of the time.

    It does not matter if the team winning the coin toss wins the game after the first drive. The first drive percentage is the only number that matters and that percentage is less than 50%.

    Do not change a thing. College OT is silly miniature golf nonsense and should be returned to a coin toss immediately.

  92. Anonymous says:

    I like the Idea of having the first team to have the ball and the lead win, but I'd put a time limit of 12 mins on it in the regular season. If the game doesn't end in twelve mins, It's a tie. and all defensive scores win. GO PACK GO

  93. Anonymous says:

    First off, I hate all the gimmick versions like the college system. Special teams is part of football.

    Second, the most important thing for an overtime system is that it's fair. The current one is fair. If you as a coach don't want to have an arbitrary coin flip affect your chances of winning the overtime, make decisions that avoid overtime. Some examples: don't run three straight dives and kick a tying field goal but continue to try for a touchdown; when you score the "tying" touchdown, go for two and the win; onside kick in a tie. It's up to you.

    And finally, given the concerns over player safety and time slots, and super late night games, just end regular season games in a tie, for god's sake.

    In the playoffs use sudden death. In the Super Bowl, do it like Wimbeldon and just add an extra 15 minutes.

    Just don't change football: kickoff, kick return, offense, defense, turnovers, punting, field goals, and touchdowns.

  94. Rusty Southwick says:

    The author, Brian Burke, said "The dreaded 'lose-the-coin-toss-never-touch-the-ball' scenario happened in 37 out of the 124 OT periods, or about 30% of all overtime games. That's too often in my opinion."

    I don't understand this analysis. An assumption is being made there which I don't believe is rational. There's nothing that says the offense controls the game. The defense can just as easily control the game. Perhaps having one's defense go out there first could be used as an advantage. We seem to operate under an illusion that the team with the ball gets to dictate what is happening on the field. However, a good defensive team can actually control what is happening on the field. Never having possession of the ball in overtime doesn't mean you didn't have a chance to do anything, as the author implies. The defense has lots and lots of chances to alter the game in that scenario.

    What's so bad if one-third of the time the team that gets the ball first drives all the way down and scores? If the other team couldn't stop them that 1/3 of the time, a reasonable argument could be made that they didn't deserve to win.

    Also, another flaw in that analysis, as was pointed out by a reader: this scenario only happens a given team half of 30% of the time, or 15% of the time. That's not so outlandish.

    And if the other 70% of the time both teams have possession of the ball, that's quite equitable in anyone's estimation.

    A coin toss is meant to provide fairness, but it only brings the illusion of fairness, for whoever wins the luck of the flip now has that supposed advantage. The coin toss adds a level of luck to the game that wasn't there.

    I like the idea of continuing to play at the end of regulation with whoever has the ball and where they have it, and keep playing until someone scores. In an attempt to make everything fair to both teams, the rulesmakers are stripping the game of true drama. Just let them keep playing and get out of the way.

    The Kansas Plan in college has many flaws. Has anyone noticed that it takes clock management out of the game? If we had to do something like the Kansas Plan, do this:

    Have each team take turns kicking off to the other. Just one time each. Give both teams unlimited downs until they score a touchdown. But they have all the normal rules of the game clock running, so whichever team can get in the end zone in the shortest amount of time wins. It would be a heck of a lot more interesting and require more overall skill than the Kansas Plan.

    The Kansas Plan also negates the defense, pinning them back on their own 25, which is already in field goal range. Run three plays for seven yards and you almost have a chip shot of a field goal.

    The Kansas Plan is too gimmicky, contrived, unimaginative, uninteresting, quirky, and formalized. Plus it doesn't look anything like the actual game, which is really bizarre. If they don't decide a winner in 60 minutes of regulation play, don't change the rules all of a sudden.

  95. James M says:

    I think Brian's suggestion in the original post of the college style overtime without Fgs or extra points is almost perfect, This eliminates the coinflip as being important as regardless of what the opponent does you need to score a TD (and often a 2pt conversion) to win or tie.

    The only tweak I would make is to start with first and goal on the 10 yard line rather than 1st and 10 on the 25. I would prefer to see the game settled near the goal line then a team cautiously positioning the ball in the middle of the field to allow an easier FG.

  96. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps keep the current system, but the QB of the team that receives the ball in OT has to hammer three tall boys of beer before he comes out to lead his offense...

  97. Anonymous says:

    You know that "30% of games end with only one team getting a chance on offense" stat includes games that end on a touchdown. So the Dreaded "win Coin Flip kick FG and win" event happens somewhere less than 25% of the time. That is not enough of an occurrence to warrant any rules change. Sudden Death Overtime was the superior method and needs to be restored. Mathematically challenged idiots like you are ruining football.

  98. Eli says:

    Or what's all that bad if it is a tie? The NFL already has gone to a two point conversion (a good move, IMO) so coaches can often avoid OT, but I don't like the college way of doing things, it's like playing a game of 'horse' to decide who wins a basketball game. I don't like changing the fundamental rules on the field in overtime.

    Instead, play one 15 minute OT period in the NFL, and if it's still tied (however that happens) at the end, then the game is a tie. Oh, well, sometimes that's what happens.

  99. sprouts says:

    I am one of those that hate the NCAA format. "It is not real football. I refuse to watch it. I would much prefer college games to end in a tie.

    If the coin toss is so terrible and the game must be decided I would make another suggestion. Simply continue the game until someone scores. I.E. the fourth quarter is simply extended beyond the 15 minute mark. There is no stoppage in play. There is no coin flip. No kick off. Whoever is in possession maintains possession at the same spot (field position) and same down situation. Play On.

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