Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Donovan McNabb is under fire for admitting that he didn't know that a regular season NFL game ends in a tie if neither team scores in the sudden death overtime period. Donovan went on to say that he'd hate to see what happens in the playoffs or the Super Bowl which further demonstrates his ignorance as the NFL has addressed that issue as well by utilizing additional overtime periods.

Now I like Donovan McNabb. I think he's an outstanding quarterback who has been shortchanged by a lousy coach and weak front office management for most of his career. He's played behind an inferior offensive line and his receivers have always left something to be desired. You wonder how much more McNabb would have accomplished throughout his career if he played for a better organization.

That being said, I was disappointed to learn that Mcnabb wasn't up to speed on the NFL's overtime rule. It's only been in existence since 1974 and the last tie occurred during McNabb's playing career back in 2002 so it's not as if a tie is something new. True, they don't happen very often but that's because teams play much differently during the overtime period. They play differently because the first team to score in the extra period wins the game.

Donovan and his coach, Andy Reid, insist that this lack of knowledge did not influence the outcome of the game. I find that hard to believe. Had Donovan realized that there was not going to be an extra overtime period he probably would have managed the clock more aggressively. He also might have executed his plays with more tenacity. It's not uncommon for teams to let the waning seconds of the fourth quarter slip away in favor of regrouping during over time so why not protect the ball during overtime and wait for the extra extra period to start?

McNabb wasn't alone in his ignorance. Other players confessed that they were at a loss when time expired. You could see the confusion on their faces as the Bengals came out to shake hands, but McNabb is the quarterback and he's got to understand every situation. In some circles people are making too much of this, but at the same time McNabb and Andy Reid seem to be dismissing it as a minor issue. It's kind of a big deal.

Andy Reid is taking the blame for not making sure his players were aware of the circumstances and if we're being fair Andy Reid should take the blame for a lot of things. He's overrated as a coach and his team would be more successful if he wasn't there. That being said, Reid shouldn't have to teach his players about a rule 80% of the fans knew going in. The fact that the Eagles didn't know this might explain why they let a team as lowly as the Bengals play them to a 13-13 tie.

Of course the NFL should do away with the sudden death overtime provision. Generally teams play rather conservatively when it comes to big plays. Kicks and punts are short so as to minimize the potential for long returns and teams avoid taking risks on either side of the ball because all it takes is a field goal. Nobody wants to take chances and give up their own 30 yard line. More over, teams often send the kicking unit out on second or third down once they are in field goal range. It's ironic because overtime games, which are often so dramatic during regulation time, get decidedly boring in overtime. It's like topping an ice cream sundae with an olive.

Rather than subject people to sudden death, which sounds more exciting than it really is, the NFL should consider adopting a shortened overtime period. Put six minutes on the clock and play it like a regular period. You could argue that a team can easily burn up 6 minutes on a 70 yard drive that ends in a field goal but that's what time outs are for. It would be no different than the final six minutes of a half.

Another solution is the shootout method employed at the collegiate level. College games used to end in ties rather frequently since the NCAA did not see fit to utilize any tie-breaking procedure. the problem with the shoot out is that they tend to go on for a while. Perhaps putting the teams on the 25 yard line makes scoring too easy or maybe the rules should be altered to make two-point conversion mandatory from the very start. Regardless, the NFL is unlikely to take a page out of the NCAA's rule book.

Something should be done to improve the wet blanket that is sudden death overtime. The Eagles and the Bengals proved that not all close fought games are exciting. I don't know if McNabb's failure to learn the rules contributed to the tedious exercise in futility that was the overtime period but whatever the case it was a waste of time. The NFL can and should do better.

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