Jared Lankford: Time to retire the coin flip advantage

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

It was Nov. 9, 1997, a game that haunts Missouri football fans still to this very day.

No. 1 Nebraska rolled into Columbia and was on the verge of being upset by the upstart Tigers when a ball was kicked by Cornhusker receiver Shevin Wiggins and caught by receiver Matt Davidson to send the game into overtime.


The Missouri fans thought they had won (I still hold that the kick was illegal and Mizzou should have been awarded the victory) and began to rush the field.

After the pandemonium was quelled, overtime ensued and, with the momentum gone, Nebraska scored and Mizzou did not, in what turned into one of the most crushing losses in Tigers history.

A few years later, Mizzou Coach Larry Smith was asked if he had any regrets. Smith said if he had it to do over again, he would have elected to send the Tiger offense on the field in overtime instead of his defense.

Smith noted that Missouri’s defense had been on the field and was tired, especially after the long Cornhusker drive to tie the game at the end regulation. He also noted how well his offense had moved the ball all game long. He added Mizzou could have kicked a field goal and thus potentially given a rested defense a chance to give his team the win.

But, he also noted that his team had its chance to continue the game and came up short.

That sentiment about overtime has always stuck with me.

As I watched New England two weeks ago drive down the field and score the game winning touchdown against the Chiefs in overtime, all I could think was that the likely NFL MVP is going to lose this game without ever taking a snap in overtime — all because Kansas City lost a coin flip.

The coin flip determined ball possession. That in and of itself rules out team skill and moves the game result into the realm of needing luck.

Some may argue that this is nothing more than sour grapes, but the NFL needs to change its overtime rules.

Both teams should have the opportunity to possess the ball.

The Chiefs and the Patriots combined for the most fourth quarter points in AFL Championship history. To say that the Chiefs had their equal chance to win the game is shortsighted.

The main argument for the current system is that the Chiefs’ defense had a chance to stop New England, making the overtime session an equitable venture for both teams.

While it is true the Patriots converted third-and-9 and third-and-10 on the drive, it was not an equitable exchange.

Kansas City would have had to stop New England and still drive the ball to get in scoring position. That meant they needed to take two steps to win as opposed to the Patriots one to win.

Citing player safety, the NFL shortened the length of the overtime period in the regular season to 10 minutes.

But during the playoffs, the time is moved back to 15 minutes.

My solution to overtime is simple and it even keeps the game from continuing on forever.

• Each team is guaranteed one possession.

• Flip a coin, the winner can choose offense or defense.

• If both teams score equal points or neither scores on those initial drives, then the first score after those drives wins.

• If the team on offense first in overtime scores a touchdown and the second also scores a touchdown, the second team must go for two points.

• If the team on offense first kicks a field goal, the team that get the ball second must score a touchdown.

• A defensive score by the second team on the first team’s initial overtime drive, ends the game.

This system removes chance and a dreaded coin flip deciding the game.

Would New England still have won the game? Possibly.

However, it is also possible that — given the chance — Kansas City could have also scored and gone for 2 points and the overtime win as well (Yes, I know that if my “each team gets a possession” rule was in effect, New England would have chosen defense first.)

The fact remains, we should let the players decide the outcome, not the flip of a coin.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com or by calling 417-847-2610.

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