We've got mail:
Question: I want to let you know that I think regular-season overtime is a waste of time. I would rather accept a draw than lose an overtime game. The Patriots-Jets and Bengals-Eagles overtime games show people why you don't need overtime. The Patriots were robbed of a draw and a draw was a fair result between the Bengals and the Eagles. I think that by getting rid of regular-season overtime, you will see more teams go for a two-point conversion and go for the win rather than play for the PAT and go for the tie. Obviously, you need to have postseason overtime, as someone has to win. But someone does not have to win a regular season game. It's not as if many games end in a tie anyway. It is not like in soccer or ice hockey where every second game is a draw at regulation. What are your thoughts? -- Michael C., Brisbane, Australia.
It usually takes something dramatic, such as the first regulation tie in six seasons, to get people thinking (or re-thinking) the fundamental structure of the NFL. I have a feeling the league's competition committee will at least give it a closer look, along with Commissioner Roger Goodell, during the offseason. I also know this group is going to be cautious about not overreacting to one game.
I'll admit your idea of eliminating overtime in the regular season actually goes against popular sentiment in and out of league circles. If there is any change in OT rules, it would likely be to assure that every game produces a winner, not just playoff contests.
The need to have a winner in the postseason, no matter how many extra quarters it takes, is obvious. Circumstances are different in the regular season, even though Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (amazingly) admitted that he and other players assumed they'd keep playing until one team ultimately beats the other. The major difference is that there are many more games than the four played during each of the first two weeks of the playoffs and the conference finals. The potential of multiple regular-season games being prolonged by multiple overtimes is something the NFL and its network partners see as a conflict to other programming (especially Sunday Night Football). And the prospect of prime-time games stretching into the wee hours, when a large chunk of the audience is going to go to bed, also doesn't seem appealing to league and network decision-makers.
I think your premise that coaches would become more aggressive in their play-calling without the possibility of playing an extra quarter is flawed. The same coaches who often refuse to take chances to win a tie game in the final seconds of regulation, figuring it's better to take their chances with the overtime coin toss, are likely to also be the ones who will opt to avoid losing a game rather than winning it.
Don't underestimate the enormous pressure that coaches feel to do whatever is necessary to enhance their job security. To them, a tie will always be considered better than a loss. Coaching turnover has spiked in the NFL in recent years because club owners feel enormous pressure to respond to unhappy fans and sponsors who are crucial to making massive investments in all aspects of the team (including the coach) pay off in these increasingly difficult financial times.
I'd have to say what I've said before: The Patriots' dynasty has to be the most impressive because it was achieved under far more challenging circumstances than the other teams faced.
The Pats have been the NFL's best at figuring out how to overcome the forces designed to prevent any team from dominating -- free agency and the salary cap. They've also done an amazing job of overcoming injuries to key players. They did it during their Super Bowl runs. They're doing it again this season. They are without the NFL's 2007 MVP and one of the greatest players in league history, and yet still find themselves very much in contention for another division championship.
My second choice would be the Steelers. They were the first team to win the Super Bowl four times and they owned the '70s. Miami and Dallas might have been prominent in that decade for each winning a pair of Super Bowls. However, in capturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the '74, '75, '78 and '79 seasons, the Steelers were more dominant.
They consistently performed at a high level, refusing to take days off against lesser opponents. Here's proof: from 1972 to 1979 -- the stretch during which they made eight consecutive playoff appearances and won four Super Bowls -- their record against opponents below .500 was a staggering 50-1.
Question: I don't understand why the NFL is so biased against some teams, especially the Baltimore Ravens. I understand why some people may think they can only beat "sorry" teams, but what if they lost to them? Then where would they be? The Ravens have nothing to do with their schedule; they go out every week TO WIN. Unfortunately we all know that's not always possible. But I guess a Super Bowl win and two division titles are not enough. It frustrates me, as a Ravens and NFL fan, to only hear about the Tom Bradys and Brett Favres of the world. Not taking anything from them, because they are definitely a part of the elite, but where would they be without the Matt Lights and Randy Mosses or D'Brickashaw Fergusons and Jericho Cothcherys? -- Warren L.
I disagree that there is any sort of bias against the Ravens. I think they've gotten plenty of national media love. Joe Flacco has been one of the most intriguing stories of the first half of the season, and yours truly spent some time in Baltimore to tell the story about the impressive rookie and the Ravens' point explosion through a four-game stretch from weeks seven through 10.
I'm assuming your reaction is, in large part, because of the frustration over seeing what happened when the Ravens faced the Giants in Week 11. Everyone, including the Ravens, understood they were in for a stern test against an opponent many believe is one of the best teams in the NFL, if not the best. They failed the test miserably. And the most frustrating part for the Ravens was that the league's third-ranked run defense was absolutely no match for the league's top-ranked running offense.
The fact is the Giants are far better than any of the teams the Ravens beat to get to 6-3. Where would they have been if they had lost to some of their earlier opponents? They would be viewed as a club following a familiar script with a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach. Instead, they grabbed our attention ... and then they traveled to the Meadowlands and made a lot of folks say, "Told you so." That has happened to some other teams this year.
The only way for the Ravens to change that is to come out of what shapes up as the most difficult stretch of their schedule with some victories.
Question: How much of the criticism of Jack Del Rio should be directed toward Gregg Williams? Just one man's opinion, but Williams is vastly overrated as a defensive coordinator and wears out his welcome every place he has been. Williams' structure of the defense is very different from the success last year with coach Mike Smith. A 14-3 lead at home at the half against Tennessee, and Williams believes in man coverage. Will Williams' failure help cost Del Rio his job? -- Terence T.
Del Rio losing grip on his team
Williams, as well as other members of the coaching staff, front office, and players all share in the struggles of the Jaguars.
The criticism I had of Del Rio in my column this week is ultimately driven by the Jaguars' struggles. But it is focused on his handling of his players, on the fact he made a dramatically different change in his approach that could end up backfiring through the balance of what looks like a lost season.
Since you brought up Williams specifically, it's fair to say that some of the Jaguars' defensive problems have resulted from the fact his scheme probably is not the best fit for players who were largely assembled for the scheme of his predecessor. Del Rio has to be held accountable for that because he picked Williams to replace Smith.
Still, I have my doubts about Del Rio's job being in jeopardy, mainly because of that contract extension he received, reportedly worth $5 million annually, after last season. My sense is that he will have at least another year to turn things around.
It is likely to be a big job, and whether that will mean any changes to other parts of the team's hierarchy remains to be seen.