Russell Wilson doesn’t like ties. “I just think that if you play that long,” he said after Seattle’s 6-6 tie with Arizona on Sunday night, “you’re putting your lives on the line. You should find a way to win.” He says he would have been happy to keep playing, though the exhausted Seahawks defense, on the field for 46:21 because the offense couldn’t stay on, might disagree. But at least Wilson is thinking outside the box: He’s got a radical proposal to do away with ties once and for all.
“Let’s say we’re the away team. We win the coin toss, we get the ball on the 35-yard line going in. You kick one field goal,” Wilson said. “You can’t do anything else but a field goal. You make the field goal, the game’s over. If you miss the field goal, the game’s over and the other team wins.”
Wilson’s spitballing here, obviously, and if the NFL were to institute his make-it-or-miss-it solution, they’d probably place the ball where the FG percentage is around 50 percent. With kickers better than ever these days, that might be as close to the 40-yard line as the 35, for a kick of, say, 55 yards.
This single kick idea feels very unfootballlike, but maybe there are other options?
(Important caveat that ties are fine. Players and fans are big boys and girls, and can handle them. Especially in sports where ties are rare, they can even be charming quirks—baseball had a tie this season, for god’s sake. This is certainly not a pressing problem in the NFL, where there have only been 21 ties since regular-season overtime was instituted in 1974, and just eight ties since 1990.)
• College overtime rules, where a team starts a drive at the opposing 25 and scores what it can, then the other team gets a chance to match or surpass. Starting with the third OT, extra points are off the board. Everyone seems to like college OT, right? Action, touchdowns, drama, and a relatively limited number of snaps, so injuries and fatigue don’t really enter the picture.
I fear that the NFL will never embrace the high-scoring, stat-inflating college OT rules for one reason: its effect on gambling.
• Alternating field goals. Think of it like a shootout in hockey or PKs in soccer. Maybe you give each team three or five kicks and see who’s ahead at the end, like in those sports. Or maybe the kickers go tit-for-tat from increasing distances, until one misses and the other makes.
(It should be noted that the end of Cardinals-Seahawks was functionally a gimme FG contest, and it was ugly.)
This seems a little too divorced from what football is—there is already grumbling that kickers play too much of a role in the NFL, and handing them games to decide singlefootedly wouldn’t help. The knock on hockey and soccer is that their matches end with skills competitions, and this would be even more removed from the heart of the game.
• Take players off the field. The NHL wasn’t happy that more than half of its overtime games had to be decided in a shootout—55.2 percent in 2014-15. So it changed the five-minute overtime period from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3, and immediately saw more scoring. Last season, just 38.9 percent of overtime games went to the shootout. Overtime was more fun, too.
Would the NFL ever take players off in overtime, maybe nine or 10 men instead of 11, and open up the field for more scoring? Maybe the numbers only come down after each team gets a possession? Nah, it’d never happen. But it might be fun to imagine what football would look like with more space.
Pitch your tie-avoiding overtime procedures in the comments below. Let’s get weird.