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|The Buck (my bro) and I came up with the following proposal last year (spring 2003) and sent it out to the media and to NFL
coaches. This was in response to a feeling in the NFL that the overtime rule is unfair and needs to be modified. I had come up
with a crafty idea, as described below, which is unique and would provide some real benefits. We got some feedback from the
NFL (from the NY Giants John Mara and from Pereira, the NFL's head referee) and some write-ups in the media (see these
articles from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and from Sports-Central). As it stands, the rule has yet to be changed, but if the
powers that be again grow restless with the status quo, the Buck and I will be ready to pounce.
|A New Overtime Format for the NFL – The Field Position Auction
The NFL overtime system needs to be changed. To have the outcome of a hard-fought battle determined largely by a coin-flip is unfair. Nobody argues the need to
change, but how?
Introducing the concept of a field position auction. The format is still sudden death, but there is no coin-flip or kickoff involved. Instead, the head coaches of each
team bid for field position. Whichever coach is willing to take possession closer to his end zone gets the ball. The auction could take one of several forms:
1). Live Bidding Auction 1
At the beginning of overtime, the two head coaches meet the referee at center-field. Each coach brings the same red flag they use to signal an instant replay
challenge. The referee starts the “bidding” at the 1-yard line, and moves up rapidly in one-yard increments away from the goal line (One yard-line…. Two yard-
line…. Three yard-line….. etc.). Whichever coach wants to put his offense on the field first throws their flag and receives the ball at the last yard-line the referee
called out. That team takes possession, and subsequently the game plays out just as it does now: sudden death overtime, first team to score wins.
2). Live Bidding Auction 2
The ref starts the bidding at some yard-line that any coach would gladly accept, such as the 35 yard-line. One coach is given the starting bid, and the other coach is
asked if he wants to lower the bid. He can lower it by any amount in 1-yard increments, and has a certain time limit to make the decision (perhaps five seconds). If he
lowers the bid, then the other coach has the opportunity to lower it further. If he concedes, then the auction is over and the other coach will start his offense at the
winning bid yard-line. The game plays out in sudden death.
3). Silent Auction
Each coach writes down a yard-line at which they would elect to start their offense. The numbers are given to the referee in sealed envelopes; whichever coach
picked the lower yard-line wins the auction and get the ball first. The game plays out in sudden death.
In all cases, the concept is basically equivalent. A team with a good offense would likely choose to take the ball near the goal line and trust their ability to drive the
ball into scoring position, or at least to a point where a punt still leaves their defense in a favorable position. But if the offensive team goes three and out, they’ll be
punting at or near the goal line and likely give the opposing team good field position. Likewise, a team with a strong defense may choose to give the other team the
ball first and play for a quick stop and punt.
Strengths of the Auction Concept
1. Equitability. Fairness is implicit in any auction. The head coach decides the value of field position and has complete control of his team’s destiny. The
system allows the coach to weigh the strengths/weaknesses of his own team, and eliminates the inherently unfair advantage afforded the team that wins the coin-flip
under the current system.
2. Brevity. Because the sudden death format has been retained, overtime will not be significantly longer than it currently is.
3. Excitement. Imagine the excitement of live bidding! Two head coaches meet face-to-face at center-field in a test of guts and strategy. The home crowd
goes crazy as the bidding proceeds, imploring their coach to take the ball and drive to victory. However, the hometown coach must stay cool to ensure he doesn’t
end up pinned against his own goal-line on fourth down. Either way, the coach has nobody to blame but himself. If you want the ball, take it. But be careful what
you ask for.
The mandate for change is there. The field position auction will not only provide an equitable way to decide overtime, it will create excitement that the antiquated
coin-flip ceremony just doesn’t have.