Overtime was introduced at the college level in 1996, and there the teams trade possessions from the 25-yard line until there’s a winner. But the time when ties were permitted below the NFL was so long ago that current players never experienced that.
Denver safety Rahim Moore dug deep in his memory bank to Pop Warner ball to recall one.
“I believe we went triple overtime and we ended up winning and I don’t remember how it all went down,” Moore said. “It was like the 90s, so I forget. Also, I would say it was in the rain.”
Even the NHL has abolished ties, using a penalty shot competition after scoreless overtimes in a regular season game with mixed reviews. (Imagine the NFL switching to a punt-pass-kick contest to settle the score!)
“I would’ve loved to see a shootout,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, joking. “A couple of guys firing the ball at the goal posts. Anything to settle the thing.”
Uh, don’t count on that.
Anderson said the NFL’s competition committee will consider the overtime rules annually, but in a league where injuries are common the likelihood of a change is slim.
“To have these guys going into an additional overtime period or more, we would be taking on some risk we don’t think is prudent to take on,” Anderson said.
The NFL Players Association didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Another factor working against a change is game quality. With the promise of endless overtimes, if necessary to determine a winner, teams could be tempted to play conservatively down the stretch and bog a contest down in safe runs and punts.
There’s also the stake the television networks have in this multi-billion-dollar business to consider. CBS and Fox already have to push back lucrative Sunday night shows if games run long during the afternoon. The possibility — even if it’s an improbability — of a three-overtime game, then, is not ideal for them even though they’d undoubtedly keep fans glued to their sets for more time in that scenario.
Anderson said the NFL has not sought opinion from the networks on the potential of a format switch, though he said of squeezed programming, “I am sure those are legitimate concerns.”
Anderson said player health and safety is the driver of such discussions.
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli said he didn’t see the need for a change because of the rarity of ties and echoed Anderson’s concern of greater injury risk with longer games.
But, Gaudelli said, “from a TV perspective, I don’t know what the downside would be.”