In March 2010, when the owners converted overtime from sudden death to the clunky half-measure that survived until Tuesday, the rule applied to the postseason only. In May 2010, at the behest of coaches who loathe the idea of having two sets of rules, the owners extended the rule change to the regular season.
Based on that precedent, it’s possible that the next step for the new overtime procedure will be to see it apply to the regular season, too. Don’t count on that.
The NFL, as evidenced by the shrinkage of overtime from 15 minutes to 10 in 2017, wants to get these games finished. The change was made because the league doesn’t want a team to play an overtime game on Sunday and then play another game on Thursday. (Indeed, it was a nearly 75-minute game for the Buccaneers in 2016 against the Raiders that preceded a Thursday night game against the Falcons that likely prompted the five-minute reduction in overtime.)
So, no, the league won’t potentially make regular-season games longer by extending overtime beyond the scoring of a first-drive touchdown. If anything, the league will switch regular-season overtime back to sudden death, in order to make the games even shorter.
Here’s why. At some point, the league potentially if not likely will explore playing games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, in order to pull more games away from the cluster of contests played at 1:00 pm ET on Sundays. The impetus to engineer more stand-alone games will come from gambling. Once the technology is available to transmit real-time images from stadiums to flatscreens from coast to coast, the NFL will want customers to have the chance to focus on more games. More accurately, the customers will demand it.
Enter Tuesday and Wednesday. And maybe regular doubleheaders one or more weekdays.
Yes, teams will have less time between some games. Four days. Five days. That will be balanced by ongoing efforts to make the game safer. One way to make the game safer will be to make it shorter. And the easiest way to do that will be to reduce regular-season overtime to sudden death.
Or maybe the league will get rid of overtime in the regular season altogether. Don’t be stunned if that happens. Before 1974, when overtime first expanded from the postseason to the regular season, it was harder to avoid a tie, since the advent of the two-point conversion remained 20 years away. Now, it’s far easier for teams to keep their scores from being the same.
Gambling will compel many changes to the NFL. Once the league realizes the value in shifting games from 1:00 pm ET into other slots on other days, the league will likely do whatever it has to do to justify cramming even more cheese into the pizza.
Under the guise of milking even more cash out of the cow.