The NFL overtime system is broken and it’s easy to see why. I’m not talking about two ties in two weeks, though. The fact that the league has to put its overtime rules on the screen every time a game goes to overtime is all you need to know. I’ve never seen Fox or ESPN have to explain how extra innings or basketball overtime works. Even the NHL with its loser point, 4-on-4, 3-on-3, and shootout formats over the last 20 years is still pretty simple – play five minutes and if no one wins we go to a three-round shootout.
The fact that the NFL has to explain the rules every time a game goes to overtime is ridiculous. That’s arena league stuff. Fortunately, the solution is easy. The NFL will eventually adopt the college football overtime system, the Kansas Plan.
The Kansas Plan won’t be coming to the NFL next year, but it probably will be in the next decade or so. A criticism of the Kansas Plan is that it takes special teams out of the game, with no kickoffs or punts. Pretty soon, though, that’s what regular football could look like. With the NFL moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line and moving touchbacks out to the 25-yard line, it’s clear that they want fewer kickoffs returned. Same in college football, which now treats any fair catch of a kickoff inside the 25-yard line as a touchback. It may be a while before the kickoff is eliminated entirely but it could happen in our lifetimes, and eliminating it in overtime would be an easy way to start.
The NFL said it shortened regular season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes for player safety reasons. Making the switch to the college football overtime system could easily be justified for that same reason.
And all due respect to punters, but if a game can’t be decided in 60 minutes I don’t mind taking the option to punt off the table for OT. Overtime is intended to force an outcome, one way or another. To force an outcome, game play has to be tweaked a little bit. I don’t mind telling a team they lose the right to punt after 60 minutes of play.
While I don’t believe the current NFL overtime system is unfair, the college overtime system is undoubtedly fairer. The Kansas Plan obviously gives each team an opportunity to possess the football. This eliminates the possibility of another Super Bowl (or any game, really) ending without one side getting an opportunity on offense. If I were a Falcons fan, I’d still be upset that Matt Ryan never got to touch the football in overtime in Super Bowl 51.
Unless the NFL wants to play full 15-minute quarters until the deadlock is broken, which it most certainly does not, it’s time they go back to college and adopt the Kansas Plan. College football overtime isn’t prefect, but it’s simpler, safer and fairer. You could do a lot worse than an overtime system that’s simple, fair and safe.