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Nick Ripa October 21, 2020

The National Football League has been around since 1922, and has been very popular for more than 50 years. The rules have been evolving ever since its creation, but they have yet to be perfected. The main concept that the NFL fan base is in conflict with is the importance of the overtime coin toss. 

To begin the 10-minute overtime period, the referee tosses a coin to determine which team will possess the ball first; the team that loses the toss decides in which direction they will be kicking the ball. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.

Like many other athletes with a fantasy football team at DMACC, I was watching the Texans take on the Titans this past Sunday. After four back-and-forth quarters, the score was all tied up to end regulation. After a brilliant performance through 60 minutes, Deshaun Watson, quarterback of the Texans, made his only mistake of the game by guessing wrong on the coin toss. As expected, Derrick Henry, running back of the Titans, added 63 more yards from scrimmage and found the endzone to secure the victory. The Texans defense was helpless and the offense was left itching for an opportunity for a rebuttal.

I had no preference on who I wanted to win the game, but even Titan fans understand that a game shouldn’t end in such a way.

Although the NFL receives criticism for their overtime rules, the only change that has been made was the sudden-death rule implemented in 2010. That rule states that if the team who receives the first possession of overtime fails to score any points, then the next team to score in any way wins the game.

This addition does add a little pressure to the team who receives the ball first, but barely increases the fairness of the overtime period.

I’ve decided to take a look at the statistics to see just how fair overtime really is. (A rule change moved the kickoff back five yards to the 30 yard line in 1994, so I only included stats from beyond that year.)

  • From 1994-2009 (before sudden-death was implemented), approximately 60% of teams that won the overtime coin toss won the game. Of those overtime games, 34% ended on a first possession touchdown.
  • Since the sudden-death rule was implemented, 87 games have resulted in overtime. Five of them have resulted in a tie and 45 of the remaining 82 have resulted in a win by the team that won the coin toss. (54.9%)
  • In addition, there have been eight postseason overtimes since the rule’s creation, and five of them have ended with a touchdown on the opening drive.

Most people would not be alarmed by the 54.9%, but that is a clear 9.8% advantage to the team that wins the coin toss. The concept that is dreadful to think about is the possibility of losing the game without given a chance on offense.

It is ridiculous that five of the last eight postseason games have ended with an opening drive touchdown. Of the five, two were conference championship games, and one was a superbowl. No game should be decided without each team receiving equal opportunity, especially one that ends a team’s season or creates history.

In college football, the team that wins the coin toss decides whether to play offense or defense first. Each team has a chance to score starting from the opposing 25 yard line. If the score is still tied after both possessions then each team will do it again with the team that was on offense first starting on defense. 

Personally, I feel that the college overtime system is perfect because the red zone is where the defense has to get gritty and the offense uses the tricks up their sleeve. Most importantly, nobody leaves the stadium feeling as if they were robbed.

The NFL overtime doesn’t need a few improvements here and there to become a true game decider, it needs an overhaul.

This image was originally posted to Flickr by U.S. Secretary of Defense at It was reviewed on 13 April 2020 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.