NEW YORK -- NFL owners will vote next week whether to allow each team a possession in overtime in the playoffs if the team that wins the coin toss kicks a field goal on the first series.
Previously, the game would end whenever either side scores, as happened in the NFC Championship Game in January, with the New Orleans Saints beating the Minnesota Vikings on Garrett Hartley's kick. But NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay says a trend has developed showing too strong an advantage for teams winning the coin toss to start overtime.
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If the team that falls behind by three points on the first series also kicks a field goal, then the game would continue under current sudden-death rules.
The proposal is only for the postseason.
"Statistically, it is pretty clear there has been a change," McKay said. "When sudden death was put in for 1974, it clearly worked very well and was a good system. It brought excitement and effectively broke ties. From '74-'93 you had a 50-50 (breakdown) in who would win between those who won toss and who lost the toss.
"Changes occurred over time, and the numbers have changed to 59.8 percent winning the coin toss and winning the game. The team that loses the coin toss wins 38.5 percent. We are trying to put in a system that emphasizes more skill and strategy as opposed to the randomness of the coin flip."
McKay credited the advancements in field-goal accuracy and skills of return teams for the hefty switch in statistics. The competition committee found that since 1994, when the kickoff was moved back 5 yards to the 30, teams winning the OT coin toss won 34.4 percent of the games on the first series. They kicked field goals 26.2 percent of those times, an increase from 17.9 percent in 15 years.
"I would say this is something that's been on our radar for a number of years and been talked about a lot," McKay said. "In the last four or five years, we have not proposed anything because we thought if there weren't enough votes (among the 32 owners), we should not propose it. This year, the statistics are so compelling we need to get the discussion going."
Rest assured there will be plenty of discussion; 24 votes are needed to adopt the change.
The players union strongly has supported the current overtime setup because it fears another system could lead to more injuries. McKay said the competition committee has "not spent a lot of time with them" on this proposal, but it will make the players association aware of the recommendation.
"Personally, I like it the way it is," Longwell said in a text message. "If you get the ball, go score. If you don't get the ball, stop 'em."
Questions have been raised whether altering overtime is something that must be collectively bargained with the union, but the NFL says it would simply be a rule change the league can unilaterally enact.
Another recommendation to the owners, who will hold their meetings in Orlando, Fla., beginning Sunday, centers on expanding protection for defenseless players, most notably receivers. McKay said a recent rule change helped, but there are cases where receivers already have made a catch and still are defenseless when they are hit in the head area.
The proposal will offer those players protection from hits to the head until after the catch is made and the receiver has an opportunity to protect himself.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press