The Baltimore Ravens proposed a “Spot and Choose” overtime rule last offseason that was quickly spurned by the league. Will it get a second chance in 2022?
In the wake of the Buffalo Bills’ overtime defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round, a longstanding tradition could soon be eradicated.
Fans were left wildly entertained after this past weekend’s slate of thrilling playoff games, but many shared one staunch grievance against the league: Change the overtime rule.
Currently, the playoff overtime rules heavily favor the winner of the coin toss, since they get to start with the ball. Since the rules were implemented in 2010, there have been 11 playoff games to go into overtime. The team that had the first possession is 10-1, and in seven of those games, the other team never got the ball.
Compared to the regular season, when the coin-toss winner only has a 52.8 winning percent in those contests, the playoffs warrant different rules.
Instead of the Kirk Cousins and Taysom Hills and Carson Wentzs of the league who lead inconsistent offenses, the postseason usually pits the best of the best, the Patrick Mahomes’ versus the Josh Allens with each supported by experienced play-callers.
In a do-or-die matchup against an elite quarterback, no matter how good the defense plays, that quarterback has a clear advantage.
To combat this disparity, the Ravens proposed a “Spot and Choose” overtime rule last year that evens out the playing field based on elementary school principles:
The Ravens’ “Spot and Choose” overtime proposal would be revolutionary
The “Spot and Choose” rules are as follows: there is no kickoff at the start of overtime, but there is still a coin toss. The winner of the toss gets to either “spot” or “choose.” One team picks where to “spot” the ball (i.e. 5, 10, 15-yard line) and the other team “chooses” whether it wants to play offense or defense.
Baltimore then proposed two different scenarios: one sudden-death 10-minute period (the first team to score wins) or one full 7.5-minute period where both teams play until the clock runs out.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh helped come up with this idea along with former Ravens running backs coach Matt Weiss back in 2010:
"“I know [Weiss] thought it would be the best thing way back then. It was definitely way before its time. It still may be before its time – I don’t know, we’ll find out. We like to be kind of progressive in our thinking here. It’s not always the case; sometimes the league is a little more protective.”"
The “Spot and Choose” proposal didn’t pass that year, but its sentiment has remained the same. This revolutionary overtime rule replaces chance with strategy, forcing teams to evaluate their own offensive and defensive schemes as well as external factors like weather conditions.
It’s quite a simple concept that lends itself to a plethora of fun and analytical situations and gives each team a fairer shot at winning the game.
ESPN’s Seth Walder noted back in 2021 that the overtime rule could benefit the Ravens in particular, as the team historically has “strong game management” and is “one of the most analytically inclined teams in the league.”
What can we say? Good game management and analytics *usually* win football games.
Other overtime proposals from past years will no doubt get a second look after the Bills-Chiefs robbery — as some fans would call it — but Baltimore’s proposed rule change stands out as one of the more creative options.
The league ought to at least reconsider.