You hear two common complaints about the NFL overtime format. The first, which has risen to the surface this week, is that games shouldn’t end in a tie. The second, which has been prevalent for many years, is that the sudden death format is unfair. Before getting to how the NFL can improve this situation, let’s first be willing to understand the situation.
Why does the NFL have ties? The main issue is player safety. League officials believe that an elongated game of such violence can lead to excessive injuries. They’re probably right. But if you don’t care about that, or you don’t believe the NFL when they say this, consider this: tie games are not unfair – they’re just not fun. Don’t mistake a bad game for an unfair game. If two teams remain neck-and-neck for five quarters of play, does either really deserve to lose? How about if two teams stay tied for six quarters? What about seven quarters? Eight quarters? Nine? What about 100?
People will say that a tie game results in nothing. That’s not true. It results in a half-game difference in the standings. This serves as an excellent playoff tiebreaker – a tiebreaker that one could easily argue is fairer than a divisional record or head-to-head record (which can sometimes decide a final playoff spot). Let’s get hypothetical. Say the Eagles and Saints are tied for the last playoff spot, but Philly beat New Orleans earlier in the season in a game that Drew Brees sat out. How fair would it be to award the Eagles the playoff spot on these merits? My point here is, a tie game isn’t any more unfair than certain playoff tiebreaking scenarios – a tie game is just not climactic in the short run.
The overtime situation could be worse – the NFL could implement the ridiculous Kansas City Overtime rule (like you see in college). Any true football fan would rather see a tie game than a game decided by what amounts to “halfcourt football.” The K.C. O.T. format eliminates special teams, field position and the deep ball from the equation. It makes for an entirely different sport.
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