Polian weighs in OT proposal

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The NFL is now as close to overhauling its overtime system as it has been in decades.

The league’s competition committee (comprised of Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Falcons president Rich McKay, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Giants owner John Mara, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, Colts president Bill Polian and Texans GM Rick Smith) has voted the “First to 6” proposal through and it will be voted on by the league’s owners this week.

The measure needs 24 affirmative votes (a three-quarters majority) to pass. The idea of this proposal is to force teams to do more than win a coin toss, drive a short field and kick a long field goal to win in overtime. It’s important to note that the rule is only under consideration for playoff games, and not regular-season contests.

So why is now the time? While many have theorized that the Vikings-Saints NFC title game provided the impetus, Polian claims it’s deeper than that.

“No matter where you came down on the subject, whether you were a pure two-possession guy or a status quo guy, as I was going in, when you saw the statistics broken down from 1994-2009, and you saw the team winning the toss winning 60 percent of the time, and then you saw the accuracy of field-goal kickers, both in distance and accuracy over that period of time, it’s obvious that it’s game that from 1994 on is very different than what we had prior to 1994,” he said. “(Before that), essentially, there was no difference between team winning the toss and losing it.”

Polian provide a handful of us some stats, too, straight from his competition committee binder.

Since 1994, 59.8 percent of teams winning the overtime coin toss wound up winning the game, and 34.4 percent of games have been won on the first possession of the extra period, with 26.8 percent being won on the first possession with a field goal.

The year is significant because it was in ’94 that kickoffs were moved back from the 35 to the 30.

Another factor was the improved accuracy and range of field-goal kickers, allowing for shorter and shorter game-winning drives in overtime. Polian cited statistics that said that from 1974-93, kickers hit on 54.8 percent of their field-goal attempts from 40-49 yards, and 32.9 percent of tries from 50-plus. Since 1994, those numbers have risen to 68.6 percent and 51.4 percent, respectively.


“This rule allows the defense to play defense, because if you hold them to a field goal, you’ve got a shot,” Polian said. “So it does allow you to play defense – It actually forces you to play defense. As opposed to long kickoff return, first down, no yardage; second down, short yardage; third down, long pass, pass interference; Field goal, game over. This forces you to play defense. If you can’t play defense, you’re going to get scored upon.”

One thing I thought was important to ask was why this wasn’t being voted upon for all games, rather than just playoff games. Polian’s answer was simple: The NFLPA was against extending overtimes out, and with player safety in mind, they decided to limit snaps where they could while making advancements.

“We listened to the players a great deal. There was a concern (about lengthening games), and we recognized it,” Polian said.

He also notes that overtime rules are already different for the playoffs (In the regular season, there’s just one OT period, where in the playoffs, they’re unlimited). And in the end, making sure things are done right when it counts most was paramount.


“In regular season, there’s always next week,” Polian said. “In playoffs, there’s no next week.”

We’ll keep you posted on this one.

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