Opinion: Overtime rules are ruining the NFL


Credit: Bella Schreiber

WSPN’s Bella Schreiber discusses the current issues among NFL overtime rules.

Bella Schreiber

You cling onto your clothes, knuckles turning white, praying that your team will pull through. Three… two… one… the clock hits zero and the scoreboard is nothing but disappointment, your team is out of the playoffs, done until the next season. Almost every sports fan knows this gut-wrenching feeling and has had to learn to pull through it. Everyone needs to lose a playoff game eventually, but this time it’s different.

Since the 2010 postseason, the NFL has implemented a sort of “sudden-death” overtime rule into their games. The rules are that at the beginning of overtime, there is a coin toss determining which team gets to receive the ball. If that team immediately goes on to score a touchdown, then the game ends, but if they get a field goal or don’t score, the other team gets a chance to score and win or tie it up again. Many people, including myself, take issue with these rules as it feels unfair. The game is basically up to the coin toss, as the winning team is able to march down the field for a touchdown without the opposing offense even getting a chance.

I was frustrated to find that in the last 11 overtime playoff games, 10 of those games have been won by the coin toss winner, seven of those being won on the first possession by scoring a touchdown.

The growing outrage from many fans about unfair rules sprouted from a recent divisional playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. As a Bills fan, I anxiously awaited that game, hoping it would be the continuation of our winning streak in the playoffs. My family gathered around our couch with nachos, mini hotdogs and an overwhelming anticipation for the shocking game we were about to witness; a game that many are calling one of the greatest games of all time.

The game was a whirlwind of emotions for Bills fans, Chiefs fans and anyone watching sitting on the edge of their seats. I went from screaming and cheering to stunned in silence to praying for my team to pull through. It was definitely a war of quarterbacks with both throwing for at least 300 yards, 3 touchdowns and each quarterback leading their team in rushing yards with at least 65 yards.

Within the last two minutes of the game, Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes each threw two touchdowns, leaving everyone astonished and bringing the game to overtime.

Since the Bills were away, Allen got to call the coin toss to begin the game. He called tails and when it landed on heads, an audible gasp spread through my house. The past two minutes proved that each team could easily tread through the field for touchdown after touchdown, meaning the likelihood of our defense being able to stop Mahomes was slim.

Mahomes proved me right by completing a few quick passes down field resulting in a touchdown to immediately end the game.

I understand the thought that a coin flip is technically fair, but it should also be considered with the context surrounding it. It could go either way, and there is no bias to affect how the coin flips, but it makes games like these end in disappointment: an issue for fans everywhere.

If so much proof shows that the coin toss is more than likely to decide who wins the game, why would we continue on this path of ruining the suspense of games? The entire game held our attention and forced us to cling to our seats in suspense of what could happen. Then, with the simple flick of a coin, the entire game was down the drain. That Bills game was the most exciting one I’ve seen thus far, and it ended in the most anticlimactic way possible.

After the devastating flip, it was only a matter of time before Allen and the offense had to sit on the sidelines as their fatigued defense failed to stop Mahomes.

I was heartbroken over the loss and the terrible ending, so I immediately seeked out information on the NFL and why the overtime rules couldn’t be changed. What I found was shocking.

There were piles of different ideas that had been proposed that the NFL could use. One idea was to just play 15 more minutes of football, and whoever is winning at the end wins the game. Another idea would be to have each team get a possession of the ball on the 10-yard line and have each team try to score a touchdown. If both teams scored, it would be similar to a best-of-five scenario and whoever scored more at the end would win. This idea would be a football equivalent of penalty kicks.

There are many other different ideas that the NFL is aware of, and countless more they could come up with. The Bills, the Baltimore Ravens, the Philadelphia Eagles and many more teams have been advocating and giving ideas for a change in at least the playoff overtime rules.

Despite teams’ best efforts, the NFL simply doesn’t care. Their priorities are set on playing the game for a certain amount of time on our TVs or in person, collecting our money and then leaving. It does not affect them if a few fans or even teams are mad about a rule or two. What they do care about is the fact that we still come back to watch every game.

I may just be a privileged fan who is upset about a game not going my way, but in the end, no matter if the Bills won or lost, one thing was for sure: having the overtime rules cut the game off in that way ruined the impact of its outcome.

The NFL plans to have meetings about the overtime rules, along with many other issues they’ve been having, which gives me hope for a possible solution and compromise among the fans, the teams and the NFL. The rules would never cause me to completely disconnect from the games, but having a positive change would definitely make fans’ experiences much better, and it would take the game to a new level.