Skip to main content

Point, counterpoint: Should all games be played to a decision?


! Editor Vic Ketchman says no.     

The first-ever overtime regular-season game was played in 1974. I covered it and it ended in a tie.

We laughed about it, which we could do back then because ESPN wasn't around to get people worked up over little things. It was OK back then to brush off minor disappointment and move forward with our lives.

That was then and this is now, and everything now is much more important than it was back then. We work at getting ourselves worked up at little things these days. It's a form of entertainment.

So, I'm going to get you all worked up when I tell you that it's OK for regular-season games to end in a tie. Why? Because a tie has meaning. It's not as good as a win, but it's better than a loss, and ties have major impact on – are you ready for this? – the tiebreakers.

Is that great or what? Ties break ties. Come on, laugh a little. It's OK to laugh. It's just football.

The top tiebreakers that would determine a division champion, wild-card team or home field advantage for the playoffs include the words "best won-lost-tied percentage" within their language. That means 10-5-1 beats 10-6 because 10-5-1 represents a better won-lost-tied percentage.

Simply put, ties have value. Did you hear that, Donovan? It's OK to play for the tie.

It's not OK to play regular-season games as though they are a remake of the Dolphins-Chiefs, Christmas Day 1971 playoff game. Neither of those teams had half a season left to play. Players' bodies should not be subjected to nearly 83 minutes of football in a season that already borders on being too long. That's especially true in this player-safety era.

Regular-season games will not be lengthened. The commissioner wouldn't even try to go there, and the players union wouldn't allow him to go there.

Hey, today's teams have an overtime period and a two-point conversion to assist them in playing to a verdict; the two-point try didn't exist in 1974, by the way. If they can't get it done in 75 minutes and armed with a two-point rule, then they deserve to finish the game in a tie.

I have no doubt my counterpart is about to present several frivolous formulas for breaking ties without a continuation of play. Let's see, a kicking competition? A race between the fastest players on each team? A battle of stats? How about have Phil Luckett flip a coin?

How about just end the game in a tie? Why? Because ties count.

! Staff Writer Mike Spofford says yes.

I know ties are extremely rare, but I just don't like the notion of a tie when only 16 of these games are played by each team.

Too much preparation and effort during the week and blood and sweat on Sundays go into these games – not to mention the prices fans are paying for the tickets – to not have a definitive outcome.

Call me a neat freak, but I just don't like a three-part record, with that extra "1" that sticks out at the end of the 49ers' and Rams' records now. It throws something off. It's going to make a tie be a factor in a playoff seeding tiebreaker. It just upsets the natural order of things, OK?

Look, I'm not saying you play as many overtimes as it takes to get a sudden-death winner. There's a point of diminishing returns when it comes to the players' stamina and, ultimately, their health. I get that.

I don't want the college overtime system, either. I like the NFL's sudden-death overtime period format, but there needs to be some sort of tiebreaker if nobody scores in the extra quarter.

All the stat heads out there would probably suggest a statistical tiebreaker, like most total yards, or the quarterback with the higher passer rating. That team wins. No thanks.

I've kicked around a lot of ideas, but every time I try to devise a relatively simple tiebreaker that involves a finite number of untimed snaps from scrimmage – whether it be goal-to-go situations like in Wisconsin high school overtimes, or running a certain number of plays to see who gains the most yards – I can't escape the fact that it's just asking for the officiating to play an even bigger factor in the outcome than it already does. Let's try to minimize the impact of the yellow flags.

So here's my (perhaps not-so-) bright idea. Have the kickers bid on a winning kick, in a "Name That Tune" style. "I can make a kick from 50 yards." "I can make one from 55."

OK, make that kick.

The winning bidder gets to try the kick that decides the game. If he makes it, his team wins. If he misses (or has it blocked), the other team wins. That's as simple as I can make it. No soccer-style shootouts, and the refs need to watch for the offside, unfair-assistance and roughing-the-kicker penalties, but that's it.

Overtimes usually come down to kickers anyway, right? This would just be an extension of that, so no player, coach or fan would ever have to leave the field with a tie again. Remember, this is after a full overtime period that settled nothing. Then it gets settled in a matter of moments. And no, I don't advocate this to decide a playoff game, just in the regular season.

I just don't like ties, the same way I don't like hung juries. I want a verdict. So when all else fails, let's have the kickers decide it, with one kick. The game is still called football, after all.

Cast your vote in the poll on the right, please.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.