Have at it: Let's have a winner

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
10:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We asked you to step out of the box a bit this week and tell us what you think about ties in the NFL. The conversation spilled into a larger debate about sudden death and the entire overtime format, sparking a wide swath of opinion and some interesting ideas.

Plenty of people were satisfied with the current arrangement, certainly more than I thought would be. Soccernerd01 wrote that the rule, which declares a tie if no one scores in a 15-minute sudden death period, is largely irrelevant:

It happens so few times, who cares. One sudden death period keeps the games at a respectable game time without boring everyone. Keep it the way it is, I have no problem with it.

Ralph of New York City wrote that every game must have an ending point:

Ties do complicate things but they are necessary. Football is grueling enough, we can't ask players to continue into a second overtime.

There were a number of good suggestions for avoiding ties, including the simplest: Playing until there is a winner. Coachcarp wants to see sudden death removed from overtime and have teams play a full quarter, followed by another if necessary:

I agree with a lot of the other comments that they should play until there is a winner. Why play the whole game, plus one extra quarter, only to end the day the way it started. With no winner. I also think that they should do away with sudden death, and play the whole quarter. Give both teams a chance to win like they do in baseball. I personally have never liked a football game that ends in a tie. What a waste.

Many people would like to see variations of the college overtime rule, scaled for professional players. Schumand is one of them:

My solution would be similar to college, but I would move the starting point back since it is the NFL. Both teams start at the 45-yard line so they would have to at least get a first down in order for a realistic chance at a field goal. I would also change it so that after the first round of ot, teams would have to go for two.

Broncodude08 had what is certainly a unique thought:

I like the idea of a shootout (like in soccer or tennis) for all regular and playoff games, if still tied after one OT period. Give each team 5 shots of 1 play each, to score a touchdown from the 4-yard line -- most scores wins -- do again as needed if still tied. Quick, easy, fun and no ties.

Or, you could just make it European football, writes adh388:

Make the kickers earn their money and the teams pick a kicker. After the 15-minutes, start the kickers on the 25-yard line and back them up by 5 yards until one misses and the other makes it. Add the three points each field goal to the total score.

I like that one, but it might spur be a traditionalist revolt on "soccerizing" America's favorite game.

My take? I'm sure no one cares, but a pet peeve is that the NFL determines rank by winning percentage -- i.e. how many of your 16 games are victories -- but considers a tie a half-win. So a team that is 9-7 has a winning percentage of .563, but a 9-6-1 team has a "winning" percentage of .594.

Both teams have the same number of wins, but one has a better winning percentage. It makes no sense. Yes, a tie is better than a loss. But it's still not a win and shouldn't affect anything called "winning percentage."

The problem is there is no fair way to solve this pet peeve. If you eliminate the tie from consideration for a 9-6-1 team, instead basing the winning percentage on nine victories in 15 games, the percentage actually increases to .600. But you can't ignore a tie altogether. After all, a 9-6-1 record is different than 9-7.

(In reality, this is a "not-lost percentage," but I doubt anyone wants to acknowledge that the playoffs are based on how many losses you avoid rather than how many wins you have).

The only real solution is to allow teams to continue playing until there is a winner. No college-style gimmicks, just the same rules that got us this far.

I realize this could make for a long and tortuous game, but keep in mind that ties already are pretty rare; in total, there have been 17 ties since 1974. Personally, I would prefer the occasional exhausted team over one that played five quarters, didn't decide a winner -- and got credit for a half-win.

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