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NFL Overtime Rules Leave Fans Disappointed Again, Serious Reform Needed

John Williams



NFl Overtime

The 2016 MLB World Series was an all-timer, and had it been an NFL game, it never would have happened. The NFL overtime structure is due for a change and they could take a few lessons from Major League Baseball. The Chicago Cubs were up three runs in the eighth inning but the Cleveland Indians battled back to tie the game. After both teams went scoreless in the ninth inning, the game proceeded to extra innings. In the top of the tenth inning the Chicago Cubs took the lead on a double-play by Ben Zobrist.

By the NFL's standard of overtime, that would have been the ballgame. The Cleveland Indians wouldn't have had a chance to come back in the bottom of the tenth. They didn't catch up to the Cubs and so the Cubs won the World Series.

The point is, Cleveland had its opportunity to force another inning and even to win it in the tenth. If only Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons had been so fortunate.

NFL Overtime, Patriots, Falcons, Super Bowl LI

The NFL has yet to figure out an overtime system that allows its highest paid players to go back and forth. Imagine an overtime system in any other sport where the league's MVP that season wasn't afforded the opportunity to have an impact on the outcome of the game once it had gone into overtime.

It simply doesn't happen.

In the National Hockey League it's a rarity for one team to possess the puck in overtime in the playoffs and win on their first possession.

In Major League Baseball, both teams get an equal amount of at-bats to try to win the game.

The National Basketball Association plays five-minute overtime periods during the regular season to decide a game.

FIFA plays an extra 30 minutes of time before deciding the game on penalty kicks. And still, each team gets equal opportunity to win the game.

The NFL allows games to be decided without its highest profile players having an opportunity to match their counterpart.

Roger Goodell, you can fix this.

College football's overtime isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is far superior to what the NFL overtime currently is.

Each team in college football gets an untimed possession starting in the opposing teams territory.

  • If team A scores a touchdown and team B scores a touchdown; tie game, do it again.
  • If team A scores a touchdown and team B fails to score, game over.
  • If team A scores a field goal and team B scores a touchdown; game over.

Whoever ends the period with the highest score wins the game. It's simple and straightforward and it gives both teams an equal opportunity to win the game. Instead the NFL's rules leave the league MVP on the sideline, resigned to the fact that he didn't have an opportunity in overtime to impact the game.

I've heard arguments that the Falcons defense should have stopped them, and those people aren't wrong; under the current rules, that's the way football goes. But it doesn't change the fact that NFL overtime rules are weak.

Here's my solution...

Adopt the overtime system used in college football and put each team at the 50 yard line. Overtime will be played in "periods" with each team getting a possession. When a period finishes with one team having a higher score, that's the winner.

A sport is at its best when the top competitors have the opportunity to outdo one another.

All that said, I think the New England Patriots were still going to win the game because they were playing really good football, while the Atlanta Falcons weren't playing great. The Atlanta Falcons and their MVP quarterback, Matt Ryan still should've had a chance to impact the game in overtime.

It's time for a change.

The NFL has made many rule changes over the years to make the game more offensive and appealing to the fans. This should be the next one. While the outcome may have been appealing to one fanbase, it left another feeling like they didn't get a fair shot in the overtime period.

According to the Google Trends database of the most searched Super Bowl LI team by state, the disappointed fanbase was far more popular. An otherwise meaningless stat that may hold some clue as to why the NFL has seen a decline in ratings.

NFL Overtime, Patriots, Falcons, Super Bowl LI

NFL, don't leave your MVPs on the sideline to watch helplessly as their defense folds. That's no way to decide a championship.

I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

  • XaqFields

    This is spot-on, John, spot-effing-on.

    I was chatting with your fellow writer Jess Haynie during the game and as the Patriots were driving down the field I said “It would be a shame if the Falcons don’t even get to touch the ball.”

    I’m unsure why the NFL chooses to set their overtime rules in a way that robs the fans of the opportunity to come away from the game feeling like the best team won. It used to be sudden death — first points wins. That was awful. The current rule where you at least have to score a touchdown on your first drive to keep the opponent from touching the ball is better, but still flawed.

    But in the Super Bowl!? The mother of all football games, and we allow it to end without ever giving the other team the opportunity to match the score again? This Super Bowl, widely believed to be the best one ever, will always be marred by that one fact, for me. It was won on a coin toss.

    I have a simple solution: take however much time you want to figure out a better overtime process during the regular season. I get that there are multiple games stacked on top of each other in the first 17 weeks, and it’s just not reasonable for every overtime game to last an extra hour. But the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl? Just run the whole extra quarter! If they’re still tied after that quarter is over, then go into sudden death. At least then you gave both teams an opportunity.

    Not to mention, didn’t Fox make like an extra $50 million on the ~10 real minutes of OT? Why wouldn’t the NFL want to stretch that out to 60 minutes + if need be? It’s the last game of the year. Nothing comes after that. The players have a full offseason of rest before the next game. PUT IT ALL OUT THERE.

    • Bryson Treece

      @XaqFields:disqus I rememeber chatter back when they put this new system in place about doing it to lessen the burden on the players playing that extra quarter. Similar to the argument for shortening the preseason. I don’t necessarily agree with it, mind you, but I see it.

      I’d like either the 5th quarter and then sudden death, or allowing each team one drive, maybe two. If still tied after that, sudden death.

      • XaqFields

        Yeah, the burden on the players is definitely an issue. That’s why I wouldn’t be opposed to having the overtime rules changed for just the Super Bowl. That way it’s just one game –the final game– and not something the players are subjected to multiple times per year.

        For the remaining games, I agree with your latter suggestion where maybe both teams get one drive (regardless of whether the first team scores or not) and then if there’s a tie you go into sudden death.

        • John Williams

          I agree, you don’t want to create more situations where players are taking blows to the head, risking long term injuries etc. In the college form of over time when they are starting at like the 25 yard line. A guy charted college OT’s and found that 71% ended after 1 period. If the NFL adapted College rules but put the ball outside of FG range, I bet this would hold up as well.

    • John Williams

      Thanks for the feed back. I also understand why they limit in the regular season. Even the NHL does that. I just don’t see how they can justify it in the playoffs. It’s not putting the best foot forward of the product in my opinion.

  • Kevin Brady

    I agree that the NFL overtime rules are flawed, and even confusing. But I don’t think the Falcons really deserved another chance with the ball. They had plenty of chances during regulation and simply blew it. Would like to see them possibly play the entire quarter out during the playoffs, but that’s also asking a lot of these players. Just my two cents.

    • XaqFields

      I definitely understand that perspective, but I also think you can flip it and point out the Falcons thumped the Patriots for 3/4 of the game (IE: the Patriots had 3 quarters to not allow the Falcons to go up 3 scores on them) and it’s a shame they didn’t even get to handle the ball in overtime.

      With that said, that final Falcons drive where they were sitting in field goal range and rather than hitting the Pats with a couple runs and kicking the field goal, they got cute and ended up getting sacked out of FG range…. it definitely is tough for me to have TOO much sympathy for them. They had it in the bag right there.

    • John Williams

      I totally get this opinion. The Falcons blew there opportunity, but deserve isn’t the issue. It’s about fairness and the league maximizing it’s product. To have Matt Ryan, the league MVP sitting on the sideline only to watch limited the league and it’s product.

      Had it been Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers on the sideline helpless as the defense gave up the game tying score, it would be such a waste of their most marketable assets.

      I don’t think a change is necessary to the regular season overtime, but the playoffs need a change.

  • Thomas Hare

    I think e college rules would k if we start at the 50!

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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

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Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

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