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A Solution to NFL Overtime?

March 21, 2017
The Redskins and Bengals played 75 excruciating minutes in London at the end of October. There was no winner and everybody walked away feeling empty.

The Seahawks and the Cardinals dueled to a scintillating 6-6 tie on the league’s showcase primetime stage, Sunday Night Football.

In Tampa, the Oakland Raiders beat the Tampa Bay Bucs on a late touchdown in overtime to fly back to the west coast exhausted but victorious.

In Denver, also on Sunday Night Football, the Chiefs won a game on a field goal that clanked around as time expired in overtime to avoid a third tie on the NFL season

The key component here is that the two ties and the Chiefs win in Denver lasted 75 minutes each. The Raiders win over Tampa went 13:15 into overtime.

Under a new proposal by the NFL’s competition committee per Mark Maske of the Washington Post, these games would have ended in ties and everybody would have gone home minutes earlier.

Maske writes that the committee is considering a proposal to trim overtime session  regular season and preseason games to a ten minute overtime instead of the current 15.

Obviously, it makes sense that the longer a game goes, the harder it is on the players.

The league and presumably the NFLPA are concerned with the wear and tear on players, which makes complete sense, especially with teams facing short turnarounds because of built-in TV scheduling and packages.

So am I. So is everyone. The problem is this – both sides aren’t really and truly serious over player safety and wear-and-tear when it comes down to it, because they both sacrificed that in exchange for extra cash pumped into the sport as part of the “Thursday Night Football” package.

We’ve had short and tough turnarounds forever (Monday Night Football to the next Sunday afternoon) and while that was hard enough on a roster, the Sunday to Thursday turnaround is worse.

Last year the NFL proved they simply do not give a bleep about player safety and tight turn-arounds, when they scheduled the Redskins to play on Sunday Night Football and then in Dallas three-and-a-half days later.

Or when they scheduled the Redskins to play Carolina on Monday Night Football, only to have them on the road four-and-a-half days later in Chicago.

Give me a break! They’re only concerned about issues like this, because they get called on the carpet for it.

There’s all sorts of different adjustments and rules that can be made to helping teams on a short turn-around, that the NFL & I suppose to a lesser degree, the NFLPA have not addressed.

How about allowing teams playing on any kind of short week (Sunday to Thursday, Monday to Sunday) to expand their game-day roster? Instead of only 46 active players on gameday, how about 49? What about all 53?

Not for every game. But for limited exceptions. Then again, I still don’t understand why we even have the 46 rule to begin with, but whatever.

Here’s another way to shorten overtime games and reduce wear-and-tear on players. How about a modified college football overtime system.

If you are not familiar (where ya been?), college football overtime provides each team matching possessions, starting at the opponents 25-yard line and after the 2 nd set of possessions, the teams are forced to go for a two-point conversion after a touchdown on the third series.

My proposal to the NFL? Each team starts at the 30-yard line (instead of the 25) and each team gets a fair crack, unlike the current rule which specifies that the first touchdown wins regardless of possession.

To try and prevent the extra wear-and-tear on players, my proposal is this: Every touchdown scored in overtime MUST come with a two-point conversion attempt from the very start.

College football waits until the third matching possession to force teams to go for a two-point conversion.

Often games go to multiple and sometimes four or five overtime periods, partially because of the waiting period (3rd overtime) to be forced to go for two points. 

If team A scores a touchdown under my overtime proposal, they must go for two points. If they make it, team B knows what they need to do to extend the game. Or they lose.

If team A does not connect on their two-point conversion attempt, team B can score their touchdown and I say, they should have to also go for two points but I could live with a simple variation of a potential game-winning extra point attempt from the current distance which is obviously less than automatic.

The reason why the two-point conversion element from the start is essential is to help speed up the conclusion of the games. My proposal would also eliminate ties and I believe shorten games, while it seems like the NFL proposal would simply create more ties. 

Oh and what's more exciting? Teams exchanging extra points or the strategy and excitement of the two-point attempt, right from the jump? 

I understand that it is a little wacky and unconventional but we’re trying to speed up the conclusion of games that happen to be tied after regulation. Obviously, this would only affect a handful of regular season games, and it could accomplish what the competition committee wants.

Ten minutes of overtime under the current rules helps, but does not significantly alter the wear-and-tear on players in my opinion. 

If they’re not going to do the proper thing and abolish the Thursday night package or other short-week turnarounds, this is something that they can do that makes sense. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Sports Network ( & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN