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2 NFL rules proposals announced to address overtime

Prior to the NFL Combine, and while the only thing making news is a keyboard jockey’s mock trade or mock draft, the Competition Committee meets to conduct its annual review. They conduct extensive video study of recently enacted rules and player-safety concerns as well as review proposed rules submitted from the league office and the teams.

If the Competition Committee sees merit in a team policy, the committee will take it over, make any modifications, and present it for a vote at the owners’ meetings. Those that are not taken by the committee may be presented by the team or teams making the proposal, but not having the committee endorsement already places the proposal at a huge disadvantage.

We don’t have the full slate of rules proposals, but we know what the committee passed on. Two proposals rejiggered the overtime period to mostly allow for a two-possession minimum even if a touchdown is scored. Both proposals essentially wipe out the provisions first enacted in 2010 that extends the overtime beyond a first-possession field goal. It would also remove the longstanding rule that extra-point conversions are not attempted in overtime.

A proposal from the Eagles and Colts would give the team that kicked off first a possession even if their defense surrenders a touchdown. The Titans propose that the only way the kicking team would be frozen out would be if they allow the opponent to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion. This second proposal is an odd approach to solving the perceived problem with overtime. While traditionalists are seemingly watching their “play defense” stance melt away, this claims unfairness exists when the defense surrenders the length of the field, while it is somehow fair for them to face sudden death by not defending 2 yards.

Both proposals open a strange strategic calculus that rewards the team that allows a touchdown to be scored and has the advantage of determining the game on a conversion point. Yes, this does happen in college football, but in that situation, a team has not yielded the entire field.

There are no changes in these proposals to modify the overtime onside kick rule: if a team successfully recovers an onside kick, then the opponent has been given the “opportunity to possess,” and the game is in standard sudden death. Additionally, if the defense scores a safety on the opening possession, the game ends immediately (no change). Both proposals apply to regular season and postseason games.

It is unclear if the Competition Committee has a third proposal to modify overtime. Although there isn’t an official polling of the ownership, there seem to be enough skeptics to prevent a rule change from getting the necessary 24 votes to pass.

Typically, there is a flurry of activity by teams to throw new rules proposals into the mix, but this year it is only the two that were advanced. One thing is certain, because of the overlap, at least one of proposals will not pass.

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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