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Patriots win Super Bowl LI in overtime
I hated seeing Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl too, but don't blame the rules!

Possibly bitter over the New England Patriot's unprecedented comeback victory in overtime of Super Bowl LI, a CBS Sports blogger is arguing that the NFL should adopt college football overtime rules. The author asserts "[...] the one thing college football does better than the NFL? Overtime, without a doubt.".

I don't want to sound rude, but: no. Absolutely not!

This idea that college football does overtime better than the NFL is a popular opinion that I just flat-out do not agree with, and which I -- quite frankly -- don't particularly understand. The college football overtime rules is something that I despise about that game. For many reasons.

College overtime isn't football

First of all, college overtime is a totally different rule set than the regulation game. The CBS writer claims that "The overtime rules in college football are straight forward." I disagree on that point, as college overtime is full of caveats of its own. After all, if it were so simple, then why would sites like Sports Illustrated and ESPN feel it necessary to feature posts titled "How does college overtime work?"? For example, teams are required to go for two-point conversions starting in the third overtime because the rules-makers realized they needed some way to limit multiple overtimes. It's a more complicated and arbitrary ruleset than the CBS writer gives it credit for, and it's no less complicated than NFL overtime rules which play virtually identically to a regulation game, except that it has a hybrid "sudden death" that allows for the game to continue if the opening possession results in a field goal.

Devin Hester return TD
Special teams stars like Devin Hester are
completely irrelevant in college overtime.

Perhaps most importantly: college rules completely ignore special teams. Have an explosive punt or kick returner like, say Devin Hester? Well, in college football, he never gets to step foot on the field - at least, not as a return man. Same goes for an exceptional punter (like Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy) or a standout kick coverage unit (like perpetually-snubbed gunner Steve Tasker).

Or maybe it's the exact opposite. Maybe your kick coverage unit is a huge liability. In college football overtime, that's a weakness that you don't have to worry about, and that the other team doesn't have the opportunity to exploit.

Either way, they all get to sit on the sidelines and watch because they're arbitrarily no longer part of the game. Special teams is part of football, and should be part of overtime. Whether it's straightforward or not, any overtime rule that neglects special teams is not football.

Another popular aspect of college overtime is that it's supposedly "more exciting". Yeah, I guess just giving a team the ball in [practically] the red zone and seeing if they can score a touchdown might be more immediately exciting than watching a kick returner kneel in the end zone and have his team methodically march eighty yards down the field. I'll give you that. That is, after all, the entire point of the NFL RedZone network. Unless, of course, that kick returner doesn't kneel, and he returns that kick and finds a seam. Then we get treated to one of the most exciting plays in football. Or maybe the kicking team tries a surprise onside kick (something they can't even attempt in college overtime), which is one of the other most exciting plays in football. Even if those things don't happen, taking a touchback and marching eighty yards down the field is part of football! At the risk of employing a "no true Scotsman" fallacy, if you are a fan of football, then you should enjoy watching a well-executed, methodical march down the field. I certainly do. That is, after all, the game!

UPDATE: 7 FEBRUARY, 2018:
Some people are making a case for removing the kickoff from football altogether. I'm undecided on that particular issue. That is a separate discussion that we could have on another day.

In any case, whatever rule is in the regulation ruleset -- whether it be to just give the receiving team the ball on the 25 yard line, or adopting the Schiano Proposal (or some variation thereof) -- the same rule should also be applied to the overtime ruleset. Even if the kickoff is removed, it's replacement should be implemented in overtime, and punting should still remain part of overtime. So far as I know, nobody is talking about removing punting ... yet.

No possibility of a tied game

Another of my biggest frustrations with college overtime is that it favors the offense, exhausts the defenses, and leads to inflated scores and stats. A 10-10 defensive struggle that is unresolved in regulation can end up turning into something along the lines of a 30-27 shootout. And if you think that's exciting, then don't forget that this supposedly-exciting "shoot out" could turn into a slog of exchanging field goals indefinitely, since both teams are placed in gimme field goal range, and the rules do not -- at any point -- restrict the ability to kick field goals if both teams keep going three-and-out. At least that does get the field goal kicker involved...

Michigan State, Notre Dame, 10-10 tie
Prior to 1995, college games could end in ties, such as this 1966 matchup
between (No. 2) Michigan State and (No. 1) Notre Dame

The current college rules also don't allow for a game to end in a tie. I know that with only 12 or 13 games, every game in college football "counts", and a tie would look awfully confusing to any top 25 pollsters (but hey, that's why they get paid the big bucks, right?). Like it or not, the reality is that sometimes a tie might be more representative of the outcome of a hard-fought game than some inflated triple overtime score.

Lastly, by not permitting a tie, the college overtime rules permit a game to go on indefinitely until a winner is decided. This is a rule that changed in 1995. Prior to that year, college football games could end in ties, but the rules committee decided that was undesirable. Even regular season games must go on until there is a winner. This can wear out the players and can dramatically increase the risk of injury. I can understand the desire to play a playoff or championship or bowl game until a winner is determined (even though I don't necessarily agree with it). But is it really necessary for every single regular season game too?

Don't blame the rules, blame the Falcons

With regard to Super Bowl LI, give credit to the Patriots for playing the second half to perfection, and for cementing their legacy as one of - if not the - best dynasty[ies] in the history of NFL football, and maybe all of sports. If you need someone to blame, then don't blame the rules; blame the Atlanta Falcons.

It's the Atlanta Falcons who had the game in their pocket at halftime. The Falcons had the entire second half to ice the game. They failed! The Falcons went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half. The Falcons committed multiple defensive penalties on third downs that kept a New England drive alive and got their momentum rolling. The Falcons consistently failed to convert their own third downs. The Falcons failed to sustain drives and let their defense rest and keep Tom Brady off the field. The Falcons failed to chew the clock in the fourth quarter. The Falcons squandered their second half timeouts. The Falcons gave up a drive-killing sack and penalty that pushed them out of range of a field goal that would have kept it a two-score game. All the Falcons had to do was burn one extra minute of game clock, and they couldn't even do that. The Falcons couldn't convert their own two-minute drill into points. And the Falcons couldn't stop New England from scoring a single one of their 31 unanswered points, including a pair of two-point conversions.

Super Bowl LI - overtime touchdown
Don't blame the rules. Blame the Falcons. They failed to stop New England, or score points of their own.

Look, I despise Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and the New England Patriots as much as the next guy who didn't grow up in the Boston area. I really wish they hadn't won that game (or even been in that game), and every year I hope that this year will be the year that the dynasty comes crashing down. That being said, adopting an overtime that plays with a totally different ruleset than the rest of the football game is ludicrous.

Rule changes that make sense

If you want to change NFL overtime rules, then about the only change that makes sense to me is to just add a whole new 15-minute period. Maybe make it a 10 minutes for regular season and preseason games. That would basically just be an extension of the regulation game. It gives plenty of time for both teams' offenses, defenses, and special teams to potentially make game-deciding plays, instead of putting all the onus on each team's offense to score one more touchdown than the other team's offense. The whole team should play in overtime -- or at least have the potential to play. If one team wants to milk the clock and try to eat up the entire 10 or 15 minutes in order to keep the opponent's offense or kick returner off the field, then at least that's a part of strategy, rather than an exclusion that is arbitrarily enforced by the rules.

So no, I don't want the NFL to change the overtime rule to match college football. I think that's a terrible idea! If anything, I'd rather see college football adopt an overtime rule more in-line with the NFL's. And while they're at, maybe the NCAA should make their playoff system more fair too.

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