The way I see it, the “custodians of the game” have resorted to gimmicks and gadgets in an attempt to make an already popular game more interesting. By changing the overtime sudden-death rule in playoff games, the NFL Competition Committee has opened a Pandora’s box that could lead to even more changes when the novelty of the new modification grows dull.
For years, NFL coaches have preached the equal importance of all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams). As a player, you knew that everyone on the 53-man roster — including holders, kickers and special-teams coverage reserves — had a chance to step up and make a game-changing or game-winning play. However, the new rule has lessened the importance of special teams by stating that the game cannot be won on a field goal in overtime unless both teams have at least one possession.
During the 2009 postseason, we saw in the Cardinals-Packers wild-card matchup how a defense can win a game in overtime without both teams possessing the ball. This will not change. We also saw in the Vikings-Saints NFC Championship Game how special teams can win a game in overtime without equal possession, which based on the new rule, will change.
This is the NFL, not Little League Baseball. Not everyone needs an at-bat.
This has always been a league in which you earn everything you get. Games can be won in all three phases, on any given play. When a team made a mistake in overtime, it most likely would cost them the game. The stakes were indeed high. It was the true meaning of “sudden death.”
The last game played to conclude the 2009 season drew over 116 million viewers, which set an all-time record as the most-watched program in television history. This suggests the game doesn’t need changing and maybe we should leave well enough alone. The measure was passed by 28 owners who failed to consult with their coaches as to how the new rules will affect their in-game decisions.
Whether or not the new overtime rule has made the game better is highly questionable. Just ask those coaches.