New Overtime Rule Fair Because it Allows Defense to Play, Polian Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Weeks ago, Bill Polian didn't favor a change in postseason overtime.
Polian, entering his 13th season as Colts President and a longtime member of the NFL's Competition Committee, said this week while statistics helped change his view – and helped the policy gain approval Tuesday at the NFL's Annual Meetings – another factor made this offseason's overtime proposal different from past proposals.
This year's proposal just made more sense. Because this year's proposal is more equitable.
Because this one emphasized defense.
"We have discussed over the past seven to 10 years different proposals," Polian said on Tuesday afternoon after the NFL Owners voted 28-4 to approve a Competition Committee proposal to alter the league's overtime policy during postseason games.
"We could never reach agreement on a proposal that we felt was equitable for everybody. I think this proposal brings in defense. It allows your defense to play."
Under the new rule, each team will get at least one offensive overtime possession provided the team receiving the overtime kickoff does not score a touchdown on its first possession.
If the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown, it will win the game. If it scores a field goal, the other team receives possession after a kickoff.
If the team receiving possession second scores a touchdown, it wins. If it the teams are tied 3-3 after each has had a possession, the game will revert to the league's current "sudden-death" format.
Polian said the key to the proposal is that it increases the chance of success for a defense. Under the old system, a team could win the game by receiving the kickoff, moving a relatively short distance and converting a long field-goal attempt.
Now, a team receiving the opening kickoff must drive the field to end the game.
"They (defenses) don't have to defend 40 or 50 yards anymore," Polian said. "They can defense 60 or 65 yards, and their chances of success in that situation are better."
Polian said that element drew favor from coaches, owners and executives.
"When you talk to coaches about that, when you talk to club owners and executives about that, they then recognize, 'Oh yeah, this gives my defense a chance to play,'' Polian said. "If they can hold the team that gets the ball first to a field goal, they've got an opunity to go win the game.
"That's a very different situation than existed previously."
Polian said he first began favoring a change because statistics indicated that since 1994 – the year the NFL moved the kickoffs from the 35 to the 30 – the receiving team had won 59.8 percent of games. He said after the vote that that statistics also swayed many who previously favored staying with the old system.
"There were many people on the committee, myself included, who were not inclined to be in favor of this – the so-called traditionalists, of which I am proud to be one," he said. "But once you saw the statistics and went through the explanations it became obvious that we needed to do something. I would echo (Competition Committee co-chairman) Rich (McKay) in that once we got here and began to explain to them here are the statistics, here is what the issue is, many more people said 'Yes, this is a problem and it needs to be changed.'
"It went from what you characterized as having little chance of passing to when we got in the room and finished the discussion the final vote was overwhelmingly in favor."
McKay and Polian, speaking at a press conference Tuesday after the vote, each said there is a possibility the new format could be used in future regular seasons. One reason the rule was for postseason only was a feeling on the part of the NFL Players Association that longer regular-season overtimes could increase the possibility of injuries.
"We will use this period of time to take a look at, as we always do, what may or may not happen," Polian said. "There isn't any one category you could look at and say 'We can't do it because of this or that.'
"If we had taken that approach, this rule would not have passed and we would not have proposed it. Everything requires thought. I am not ready to go say there is any one reason to go yay or nay for the regular season – I have to take a look at the whole thing."
According to wire reports, several owners – including Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie and New York Giants Owner John Mara – said on Wednesday they expect the issue could be addressed again in May, and revised to include the regular season.
SCHEDULE CHANGE: The league is considering having the final week of the regular season include only games between divisional opponents, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.
Goodell said the move, which could extend to not only Week 17 but Week 16 as well, would be an effort to have more teams play front-line players in as many games as possible.
"Potentially Week 17 will all be divisional games," NFL.com reported Goodell as saying during his final press conference at the Annual Meeting. "That will address this to some extent. It will not necessarily eliminate the issue."
NFL.com reported that Goodell said "the league actually is considering making the final two games of the season divisional games for teams."
PROPOSALS ADOPTED: The owners on Wednesday also passed rules designed to further protect "defenseless players," including one that will mirror the rule used in college football under which a play is called dead when a ball carrier loses his helmet.
Another key change is a rule preventing a defenseless player from being hit in the "head or neck area by an opponent who launches himself and uses his helmet, shoulder or forearm to make contact," NFL.com wire reports report. "Previously, those kinds of tackles were banned against receivers who couldn't protect themselves, but now it will apply to everyone."