NFL Sports

NFL: The Overtime tie rule needs to go


It was back in 2008 that the rule about an NFL game ending in a tie was essentially rediscovered. There was a game in Cincinnati between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals that went into overtime with a score of 13-13. The Bengals had a chance to win the game with seven seconds left, but kicker Shayne Graham missed a 47 yard field goal attempt. This gave the Eagles the ball back, with essentially one chance to win the game. But Eagles’ quarterback did not even give his team the chance, and the clock would expire.

As a result, the game ended in a 13-13 tie. After the game, McNabb admitted he had no idea that a game could end in a tie. McNabb was under the assumption that the game would simply continue, and that the Eagles would essentially get a fresh clock in a second overtime. But that is not the rule in the NFL, as regular season games can end without a winner. You can view McNabb’s famous comments below.

McNabb’s confusion likely was a result of there not being a tie since 2002, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons tied 34-34. But McNabb was around, as he started his NFL career back in 1999. So the rule was not new, but it was one that was fairly rare.

Since McNabb has made those infamous comments, there have been five ties in the NFL. There was one in 2012, one in 2013 and one in 2014. But the topic has really drawn some buzz of late as a result of two games concluding without a winner this season alone. Last week in week seven, the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals traded missed field goals in a wild overtime that resulted in neither team walking away with the W, as the game ended 6-6. Then one week later, the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins flew all the way  to London only to end the game 27-27.

With this rule being at the center of attention, it is time to revisit this rule. Simply put, the rule makes zero sense. Of the four major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA), it is the only one that can end without a winner. On top of that, the rule is different in the playoffs, as a playoff game needs a winner.

In Major League Baseball, they do not stop the game if it is still tied after a certain amount of extra innings. The two teams play until they conclude an inning with one of the two teams with more runs than their opponent. In the National Basketball Association, they simply play as many overtimes as they need to until a team has more points at the conclusion of said overtime. In the National Hockey League, if the teams are still tied after overtime, they go to a shootout until a winner is determined.

So why in the world does the National Football League think it is a good idea to just end the game after one overtime is completed? Games are played to determine a winner. When you finish overtime in a tie, and call it a day, it makes the game feel worthless. The players are not a fan of the rule, and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has his own solution for the rule. While there are many variations a rule change could have, any rule change would have one key impact: every game would have a winner and a loser.

That is the way it should be. Games in the playoffs must have a winner. If a playoff game is tied at the conclusion of overtime, they would play another 15 minute overtime. And if it is still tied, they go again. So why can’t the regular season have this same rule?

If at the end of the regular season, a team that tied in one game gets in with a 9-6-1 record over a 9-7 team, is that really fair? Sure they had one less loss, but they won the same amount of games. But is the better team definitely making the playoffs? No, not necessarily. The team who had a tie in their record may simply have benefited from their opponent’s kicker having a rough day. Maybe their opponents had them dead to rights, but their kicker shanked a kick in the closing seconds. As a result, the game ends in a tie and no one wins.

There is no place for ties in major sports leagues. And unfortunately the NFL has not gotten that memo when it comes to their regular season that only sees each team play 16 games. With so few games when compared to other major sports leagues, every game is extremely important, especially  for those teams on the playoff bubble. Of the four teams with a tie, only the Seahawks are the only ones sitting in the playoff picture. But the other three (Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins) are all in contention for a spot.

So hopefully the regular season does not end with a tie being the difference between one team making the playoffs, and another team missing out. At the end of this season this rule needs to be looked at and changed. It is time to make the tie a thing of the past in the NFL.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]