No contest: NFL's overtime system is the worst in sports
The first step toward recovery, of course, is admitting you have a problem.
It is a dubious title for the world's greatest sports league to have, but the NFL has earned it. For 60-minutes, NFL gladiators can sweat, bleed and bruise their way toward victory. But victory still could all come down to heads or tails and a 170-pound kicker's mental state.
Frankly, the odds are stacked against overtimes lasting more than one possession. NFL rules constantly are tweaked in favor of offenses, and in today's era of pro football, kickers are more accurate and have stronger legs. In fact, over the past five years, nearly 62 percent of teams winning the overtime coin flip have gone on to win the game. It happened again Thursday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning the coin toss and going on to kick the game-winning field goal against the Tennessee Titans 10 plays later.
The best overtime system in sports? We'll get to that. But first, let's outline the four factors used to determine which league does it best when regulation play is not enough:
Considering those factors, two sports clearly have the overtime edge. But if we're talking about the best and worst tiebreakers, we can't have a tie at the top, now, can we? So we'll give the edge to baseball, because it is a team sport, with more moving parts involved and much more coaching strategy and dependence on depth.
The best (and worst) overtime systems:
And If more players could make free throws, the final two minutes of a game would be much more exciting (and would not take 20 minutes to play). Coaches would not be nearly as willing to send opposing players to the free-throw line down the stretch.
Only in the postseason does hockey play until there is a decision. In the regular season the sport goes the sudden death and shootout route. And the NHL remains a sport whose message gets lost on casual fans, unless they're watching on HD. A lot of fans just don't watch hockey, which means when they do, they just don't get the rules.
Still, because some players' games are more suited for certain holes than others, the Authenticity can be compromised if the playoff hole suits one player more. Golf also loses points because it is an individual sport, and it can be less than Fan Friendly if the playoff is called for darkness.
Most fans have not committed college overtime rules to memory. And starting at the 25-yard-line with no kickoffs involved is not how the game is meant to be played. Any time a team conceivably could have a game-winning "drive" without even getting a first-down, something's wrong.
Last season the system left
Manning had a similarly frustrating front-row seat to all that is wrong with the NFL's overtime system a few weeks later. Manning never even got to touch the football in overtime, and the Colts were ousted by the Chargers in the wild card round. Clearly, the system needs to be changed.
There are a number of options out there, although most either would be nixed by the NFL Players Association or muddy the game. Play a full overtime quarter? Perhaps. Use the NCAA system? Never. Too much of a risk for injury if the overtime goes long. Give each team one possession before heading into sudden death if they remain tied? This was one option the competition committee apparently considered, but did not like.
Might I suggest a first-to-six option? The first team to score six points wins. It wouldn't have helped Manning's Colts last season, but, hey, if you can't keep the opponent out of the end zone, that's your problem. First-to-six also rewards the daring. Say the Cowboys have a fourth-and-two at the Redskins 10. Should they kick a field goal and risk the Redskins scoring a touchdown? Or go for it and risk not making it?
However the NFL does it, it needs to get done quickly. Until its system changes, the best league on earth only will continue to leave fans with an empty, unfulfilled feeling. Sort of like Manning last January.