Friday, September 11, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I know I am ready. The off season seems to take forever. Last night was a great way to kick the season off with the game between the Steelers and the Titans. Both teams were great on both sides of the ball. It was one of those games that I just knew would come down to who had possession of the ball last. And it did. The Steelers won with a field goal in overtime.

The way overtime is managed in the NFL is a complete disaster. In an evenly matched game like last night's game you know that whoever wins the coin toss is going to win the game. It's not about skill at that point. Its about luck and it devalues both teams. The Steelers know that Tennessee would have won the game if they had possession of the ball. The victory doesn't mean anything.

I'm not suggesting that the NFL adopt the same overtime rule as the NCAA. Playing on a shortened field makes it feel like pee wee football. But at least both teams get a chance on offense which makes it more fair than the NFL rules. Realistically, college athletes in the best physical condition of their lives should be able to play on a regulation football field for a few more minutes but that rule is never going to change. With a progressive commissioner like Roger Goodell, I think the overtime rule might actually change in the next few years. The NFL needs to do one of two things: require that a team score 6 points to win or give each team a chance on offense.

People who argue that both teams have an equal chance of winning with the current format are wrong. With some kickers able to boot the ball 60 yards, getting halfway down the field puts a lot of teams in field goal range. Even if you have a great defense, it would be difficult to hold a team that is your equal to less than 40 yards between the kick off return and yards gained over three downs. Sure, sometimes the kick gets blocked but this isn't' something we should count on to even up the game. I paid $185 dollars a ticket to see my Dallas Cowboys play against the Buffalo Bills last season. If that game had gone into overtime I would have been pissed off that I had spent that much money to see a game decided on a coin toss.

In regulation, if a team scores a field goal instead of a touchdown the announcers praise the team on defense for holding the line. Then they change their tune in overtime and praise the offense for getting into scoring position when they get a field goal. Come on. If Tennessee had a possession after the Steelers' field goal in overtime I suspect they would have scored at least 3 as well but it would have been nice to see it. The possibility for multiple overtime periods exists if you let teams play for an additional 10 minutes with each team getting at least one possession. But if you had to score 6 points to win, two field goals or a touchdown, then every possession would actually mean something. The outcome of the game would be decided fairly and it would be much more enjoyable to watch.

This debate comes up every year but not usually after the first game of the season. I think Commissioner Goodell is great for football and like many of the changes that he has already made since taking over. I hope that he fixes this rule after this season so football games can be decided on skill and not luck.

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