I hated seeing Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl too, but don't blame the rules!
Apparently 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 "But the one thing college football does better than the NFL? Overtime, without a doubt.".
The college football overtime rules is something that I despise about that game. For many reasons.
First of all, it's 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 well, as college overtime is full of caveats of its own. After two overtimes, for example, teams are required to go for two-point conversions. It's a more complicated ruleset than the CBS writer gives it credit for, and its no less complicated than NFL overtime rules which allow for the game to continue if the opening possession results in a field goal.
Special teams stars like Devin Hester are
completely irrelevant in college overtime.
Perhaps most importantly: these 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 or kick coverage unit. 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. Any overtime rule that neglects special teams is not football.
Another of my biggest complaints with college football 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 a 38-35 shootout. Don't forget that this supposedly-exciting "shoot out" could turn into a slog of exchanging field goals indefinitely.
The college rules also don't allow for a game to end in a tie. I know that with only 10 to 12 games, every game in college football counts, and a tie would look awefully confusing to any top 25 pollsters. But 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 game until a winner is determined, but is it really necessary for every single regular season game too?
Prior to 1995, college games could end in ties, such as this 1966 matchup
between (No. 2) Michigan State and (No. 1) Notre Dame
In the context of 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. And 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. They had the entire second half to ice the game. They failed! They went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half. They committed multiple defensive penalties on third downs that kept a New England drive alive and got their momentum rolling. They failed to convert their own third downs. They failed to sustain drives and let their defense rest. They failed to chew the clock inside of five minutes. They squandered their second half timeouts. They 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 they had to do was burn one extra minute of time, and they couldn't even do that. They couldn't convert their own two-minute drill into points. And they couldn't stop New England from scoring a single one of their 31 unanswered points, including a pair of two-point conversions.
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, and the New England Patriots as much as the next guy who didn't grow up in the Boston area, and I wish they hadn't won that game. But adopting an overtime rule that plays with a totally different ruleset than the rest of the football game is ludicrous. If you want to change overtime rules, then about the only change that makes sense is to just add a whole new 15-minute period. That 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.
I'd also be willing to accept changing the rule so that at least two possessions are guaranteed. Even if the first possession is a touchdown, the game could continue to the next possession. That would at least allow both teams' offensive, defensive, and special teams units to step onto the field. But they shouldn't be untimed downs that neglect kickoffs and punts, and which puts the ball in gimme field goal range.
So no, I don't want the NFL to change the overtime rule to match college football. 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.