With the new overtime rule giving both teams an opportunity to possess the ball, NFL coaches will have to make many more decisions on how to orchestrate the new scenarios that could exist.
When the decision to kickoff or receive to start the overtime arises, I would think very seriously about giving the other team the ball first if defense was my strength and we were facing an offense I felt like we could control.
With the potential of two possessions, it intellectually, strategically and tactically makes absolutely sense for some teams to kick off first. It might play out like the situation in college, where coaches could want to see what the other team does first.
Even so, I still think coaches will want the ball first. It would take an iron stomach to give the other team the first opportunity.
Coaching this situation is going to be similar to a two-point conversion at the end of a game. You always ask your coaching staff in the calm of the office on Friday, “OK, we’re down by one at the end of the game, what should we do?” At home you would always kick the extra point because you figure you have the advantage. But on the road, as a coach you have to ask yourself how the game is going, if you’ve been able to move the ball, how your defense is playing, consider the pace of the game and whether you want to risk the other team going the length of the field if you haven’t been able to stop them.
All of these things are at once under consideration, and I imagine it will now be a very similar scenario in determining whether to kickoff to start overtime. As a coach you have to go through the parameters of what the game has been like and factor them in.
The problem for coaches is that there is no tried and true blueprint for the new overtime rule. There’s no history behind it, no data. The coaches are nervous about it, because they don’t want to be the first ones to make the wrong decision.
Oddly enough, the rule was approved in the first place because teams increasingly weren’t getting an opportunity to get the ball in overtime. This season, I believe in 17 out of 18 overtimes both teams have had a possession. So, it could become a moot point because we don’t know when it will show up in the playoffs.
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