NFL coaches are divided over whether to change overtime rules

Key Points
  • NFL owners are set to review proposals that would have both teams get at least one possession in overtime.
  • The debate comes after Kansas City defeated Buffalo in the playoffs by scoring a touchdown on the first possession in overtime.
  • "I'm not exactly sure where I sit," said Kansas City coach Andy Reid, whose team has both benefited and suffered in the playoffs because of the rule.
Kansas City Chiefs football team head coach Andy Reid speaks to journalists at a coaches press availability during the NFL owner's meeting, Monday, March 28, 2022, at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell | AP

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wants no part of a new overtime rule. Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid is undecided. And Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott made it clear where he stands.

"I'd like to see a change," McDermott said Monday at the NFL's annual meetings.

NFL owners are set to review proposals that request both teams to possess the ball during the extra period. The debate comes after a classic playoff game between the Chiefs and the Bills that ended in overtime after Kansas City scored on the first possession.

The current regulation, which is known as Rule 16, allows each team to possess the ball in extra play unless the club that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown. If the opening drive results in a field goal, the opposing team gets the opportunity to match the score or win with a touchdown. If there's a turnover, the first team to score wins.

Proposals from the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles suggest that both teams should possess the ball in overtime, regardless of whether a touchdown is scored on the first possession. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans proposed the team that scores a touchdown on the opening drive would also need a two-point conversion to win.

The rule has been in place for the playoffs for 12 years. In 2012, the league expanded the format to the regular season. To change the rule again, 24 of 32 NFL owners need to approve amending Rule 16.

"I like to stay out of overtime as much as possible," joked Harbaugh, the Ravens coach.

But then he got serious.

"I'm not for them," Harbaugh added. "I don't think adding plays at the end of the game is the answer. I don't think extending games is the answer."

Reid, Kansas City's coach, smiled when he was asked about the rule. He recalled the Chiefs' 2019 overtime loss to the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots in the playoffs. The Patriots won the coin toss and eliminated the Chiefs after an opening drive touchdown. But he also recalled his team's January win over the Bills, when the Chiefs were the beneficiary of Rule 16.

"I'm not exactly sure where I sit," said Reid, chairman of the coaches subcommittee that has input on NFL rule changes. "I've seen it work both ways. It's worked the way we've got it."

Last week, Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay – chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee – said "data and analytics" support a change to Rule 16. He noted how there have been 12 postseason overtimes since the current rule was implemented, adding that the team winning the coin toss has won 10 times. Seven of those victories came on the first drive, including the Chiefs' win over the Bills in January.

Securing 24 votes on Tuesday will be difficult and a "pretty big hill to climb the first time," McKay said.

Also, don't forget about defense.

"There is a defense on the other side of the ball," Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith told CNBC. "When you kick the ball off … you can take it away, score right there, and you win. There's a reason why we had these rules in place for this long period of time."

He added, however: "But I think change is always good, too."

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