The NFL Has a New Overtime Rule: Is it Fair?

Each overtime will start with a coin flip, and the team that wins the coin flip can choose whether or not they want the ball first or second.
Each overtime will start with a coin flip, and the team that wins the coin flip can choose whether or not they want the ball first or second.

Beginning in the 2023 playoffs, the NFL implemented a new overtime rule to try and make the games more fair. But is the overtime period more balanced now? 

The new rule gives each team a chance to get the ball and score during overtime, instead of it previously being if a team scored a touchdown right away, the game would be over and the scoring team would win. The rule was used in this year’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

Per the NFL, “each team will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime” (NFL Football Operations). This rule came after the 2021 Divisional Playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs, where the Chiefs won without the Bills even touching the ball, which led to lots of frustrated Bills fans and NFL fans alike who recognized the OT rules were unfair.

“I like the new rule,” Matt Lintal, head coach of the State High Football team, said, “You know if [the opposing team] kicked a field goal or if they’ve scored a touchdown.”

I definitely agree with Lintal, as the rule gives each team a chance to score, making it as fair as possible. In addition, knowing what the other team did can allow coaches to call the best plays they have.

Sean Brennen, a Junior at State High, also likes the rule. “I think that it positively impacts the game because if your team was stacked on one side of the ball, it makes it more fair for each team that they each get the ball and they get a chance to score, just to see who’s the better team that day,” Brennen said.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the NFL decides to implement this rule into regular season games, as well. However, I’m against it because it eliminates ties and makes the games go on much longer.

Coach Lintal shares this sentiment, but for a different reason. “I don’t think that them doing that in the regular season is in the best interest of the players from a health standpoint,” Lintal stated. “I think they get enough snaps to be able to get their seedings [in] the playoffs”.

Lintal brings up a very valuable point: The 18-week season is grueling for players, and along with practices and workouts through the week and a harsh training camp during the summer, that’s months and months of non-stop wear and tear on the athlete’s bodies. There’s no need to implement more football for them to play since they already play 17 games.

Brennen agrees. “I think that in the regular season, it doesn’t matter as much because there’s so many more games and you can afford to lose a game and still make the playoffs,” he said.

Recently, the biggest story about this rule has been regarding San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. After the regulation period in the Super Bowl, he chose to take the ball first in overtime, while most people would have done it second. 49ers players also expressed confusion about the new rule. Whether or not Shanahan should’ve taken the ball first or not is subjective, but the lack of preparedness for the literal Super Bowl is questionable and a bad look for Shanahan and the 49ers staff and players.

“I think having the ball second is certainly a huge advantage,” Lintal explained. “[Y]ou always want the ball second”.

I agree with Lintal because you want to know what the other team has done first. If they scored a touchdown, you know you have to match it. If they didn’t even score at all, you have a lot more comfort and can call your best plays.

The 49ers couldn’t capitalize in the OT period in the Super Bowl, and the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes made them pay right away. “[Patrick] Mahomes put his team in a great scenario out there,” Lintal said. “And congrats to them.”

There will certainly be discussion at every level of the NFL on this new rule change. The rule-makers will evaluate the Super Bowl over time and decide whether or not the rule should stay. Players and coaches (especially from the 49ers) will review the rule and be prepared in case they find themselves in an OT scenario in the playoffs. I think they should keep the rule exactly as it is now because it’s a lot fairer and gives each team a chance to show their skill on both sides of the ball. This will have a positive impact on football in the future because it just allows the players to play football, without worrying about losing after the first possession.

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