Is it Over for NFL Overtime Rules?

Collin Claycomb, Staff Writer

In the recent weeks of NFL games, the rules of overtime have come under fire for being unfair. The current format of overtime in the NFL is that if a game is tied at the end of four quarters of play, a fifth and final (excluding postseason) overtime quarter is played. Before this quarter begins, a referee will flip a coin, with the away team calling heads or tails while the coin is in the air. The team that wins the coin toss gets to choose if they wish to receive the ball and start on offense, or kick the ball and start on defense. After that is where the controversy lies. If a team scores a touchdown in overtime, they win, even if the other team doesn’t get the ball. If the team that starts with the ball doesn’t score, the first team to score any points after that wins.

Many people, fans and players alike, believe that the fact that a team can win an overtime game before the opposing offense has even touched the ball is unfair. This was very obvious in the AFC Divisional round game between the Bills and the Chiefs, where after back and forth scores from each team, and ridiculous games from each QB, left the game in a tie. The Chiefs then got the ball in overtime after winning the coin toss and scored a touchdown with almost no trouble.

The opposing argument is that teams do have a fair shot at winning in overtime no matter what, because all they have to do is get a defensive stop, and kick a field goal. Statistically, most drives in the NFL don’t even end up in a score, let alone a touchdown. This argument was backed up in the AFC Championship game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs, in which the Chiefs once again won the overtime coin toss. However, Patrick Mahomes threw an interception on the Chiefs first drive, and the Bengals won with a field goal.

Personally, I believe that NFL overtime rules should be changed, and here’s why.


There’s not much of a reason not to.

Of the arguments against changing overtime rules, few of them are that change would be bad, more often they are that change is not needed. The only reason why changing overtime would be bad that I’ve seen, is that it is extra stress on the players. These NFL players do go through the most physically rigorous American sport, and an additional 15 minutes of gameplay is by no means nothing. However, not only do most overtimes not go the full 15 minutes of play, many of the players would rather get an equal shot at winning than play a little less and not get that equal shot at winning. 

Bills quarterback Josh Allen was a victim of the current overtime rules, and voiced his opinion on the matter during the NFL Honors ceremony, saying: “You could just end it in a way that makes sense, that’s fair, and gives everyone an equal opportunity to win.”


There are a lot of reasons to change the overtime rules.

My personal biggest problem regarding the overtime rules change is that even if you think the overtime rules are fine where they are, an argument against them exists when it doesn’t need to. The overtime rules can become better, even if right now you believe they aren’t bad. College overtime rules are the most popular replacement for the current rules, but with time and discussion, I’m sure the rules committee can come up with a format that is fair in all aspects and has no valid arguments against it. The fact that this is a possibility means that there is no reason to settle with a format that has arguments against it.

After this year’s playoffs, I am sure that the overtime rules will be brought up again during the offseason, as they were discussed in 2019 after the Kansas City Chiefs fell victim to the coin toss. I hope that people will see that even if the current rules aren’t terrible, there is always room for improvement.