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The Slow Death of Sudden Death Overtime (and other NFL rule changes)

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Stop the game!  I don't care if you're going to automatically review it or not, I want that fumble reviewed!
Stop the game! I don't care if you're going to automatically review it or not, I want that fumble reviewed!

In case you missed the article in today's Den, the NFL approved a couple of rule changes earlier this week. The two biggest were requiring automatic booth reviews of all turnovers and extending the playoff-only overtime rules into the regular season. I'm sure Lovie Smith approves of the former - he never met a turnover he didn't want to challenge, after all - but I'm not so sure anyone likes the latter. Why change a system that worked for everyone until Brett Favre's Vikings had a sad about it? And, if the NFL is so concerned about making overtime "fair," why don't they just borrow the "everyone gets a chance" system from the NCAA? Thoughts below the fold.

As for the automatic booth review of fumbles, I for one am in favor of the change. With the advent of HD television, it only makes sense the NFL would enable its referees to do what any Grabowski with a DVR can do: rewind the tape a couple of seconds and see if that ball really did pop out before the player was down. Considering the importance of turnovers to the outcome of any football game, the NFL was wise to make sure they get these calls right every time. Still, I put the odds of Lovie Smith trying to challenge a fumble anyway at 2:1 in favor.

I'm not as impressed with the overtime rule changes. The big problem? The NFL changed the simplicity of "sudden-death" to "sudden-death unless a team scores a field goal on the first possession of overtime, in which case the other team also gets a chance to tie (and thus trigger an actual sudden-death scenario) or score a touchdown and win; but, if the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown or if the team that lost the coin-toss recovers an onside kick - thus giving the other team a 'chance to possess the ball' - and then kicks a field goal, it's still game over." By implementing these bizarre conditions for winning in overtime, the NFL guarantees confusion among coaches, players, referees, and fans alike. Also, the rule lacks both the simplicity of the old "score first, you win" and the fairness of the NCAA "everyone gets a chance to score." Considering at least one famous NFL player didn't even realize that regular-season games could end in ties, this rule change is going to add a dash of chaos to every overtime game this season. Announcers, players, and coaches will all be scrambling to find their rulebooks.

The overtime rule changes might allow you to impress your non-WCG-reading friends with your intricate knowledge of the overtime rules next season - read here for the full breakdown of every possible scenario - but I doubt the rules will make a whole lot of difference in the outcome of overtime games. Under the new system, the coin-toss-winning team went on to win about 60% of the time, a slight but not overwhelming advantage. If that statistic was more heavily weighted towards the winner of the coin-toss, I could see the NFL wanting to fix the system: football shouldn't be a game of chance, after all. If the goal is to make everything fair, however, the NFL should try out the NCAA system: just give each team the ball on the other team's 25 yard line and repeat until one team wins. With the new system, there are only two goals I can surmise the NFL has in mind. The first is giving advertisers a couple more commercial breaks during overtime. The second? Making sure that if Brett Favre rejoins the NFL and throws a late interception to ruin his team's chance of winning in regulation, he'll still be able to get a chance to score when that other team kicks a field goal in overtime.

Now that I've given you my completely objective opinion of the new overtime rules, what's your take?