The NFL will hold its annual meeting next week out on the West Coast. League representatives are set to review a number of rule changes in beautiful Dana Point, Calif., but overtime will not be on the table.
"In talking to the Players Association and the Players Advisory Council and in looking at the Competition Committee survey from the member clubs, we've come to the conclusion that there's nothing we're in a position to propose at this time," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who serves as the NFL's co-chair of the competition committee.
"I myself was a little surprised at how adamant the players were about not wanting to change the current overtime system," concurred Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations.
In 2008, the team that won the OT coin toss won 66.7 percent of the time while the team that lost the toss was victorious 26.7 percent of those extra session games. The Eagles and the Bengals played to a 16-16 tie back in November.
The Jets, who were in two overtime contests last season, won the coin toss at New England and sent Patriots fans home unhappy when Jay Feely culminated a long opening drive with a 34-yard boot.
Since 1974, when the current OT rule was adopted, 53.7 percent of teams that won the coin toss (232 of 432) went on to victory. Despite suggestions that both teams should get at least one possession in the extra session or that the fifth-quarter kickoff be moved up to the 35, the league has no immediate plans to tinker with its current format.
Most of the rule proposals that will be discussed next week will involve player safety: eliminating the bunch formation on kickoffs, eliminating wedges of three or more men on kickoff returns, eliminating/penalizing any helmet-to-helmet contact that occurs during a blindside block, and a proposal to eliminate any initial contact to the head area of a defenseless receiver.
"There are not any major rules proposals changing the game," McKay said. "We think the focus is on player safety and we think the game otherwise is in very good shape with respect to the numbers and with respect to the quality of the game."
The league is also looking into expanding its current instant replay system. In response to Ed Hochuli's controversial incomplete pass ruling at the end of that Broncos-Chargers game back in September, the competition committee would prefer that a referee not blow the whistle on a questionable incompletion and allow the play to carry on through the fumble recovery. That would allow instant replay to determine whether a QB's arm was moving forward or if it was just a fumble.
And another proposal would affect onside kick strategies as the league will consider eliminating a rekick for a team after being penalized for an illegal onside kick that goes out of bounds. That would give the receiving team the ball where the ball landed out of bounds. That rule is in effect now only in the final five minutes of the game.
Playoff Reseeding and Draft Selection
The Jacksonville Jaguars suggested the league should again review its postseason procedure in Bylaw Proposal No. 1. This appears to be a longshot to change, but I think it should. For the past two seasons, we've had AFC teams with better records go on the road on Wild Card Weekend (Jacksonville at Pittsburgh in 2007, Indianapolis at San Diego last season).
In the latter case, you had the fifth-seeded, 12-win Colts visiting the fourth-seeded, 8-8 Chargers. Come on now — that's a four-game discrepancy. You should be rewarded for winning your division but if your division is weak (see AFC West in 2008), then win some more games.
And that leads us into Bylaw Proposal No. 4. The league would seed the non-playoff clubs from 1 to 20, with the playoff teams then seeded from 21 to 32 based on when each club exited the postseason. Under this rule, the aforementioned 'Bolts would have picked 25th instead of 16th in April's NFL draft. That just seems like common sense to me.
Of all the numbers McKay read off, I'm shocked by the 84.5 percent success rate on field goal attempts. That's just crazy. We have a bunch of good kickers in this league, but maybe it's time to narrow those goalposts.
Also, the scoring average for a game was 44.06 points. That's the ninth-highest mark of all-time and the highest since 1970.
And you have to give the league credit for keeping these games manageable. I love college football but some of those contests go four-plus hours. The pros keep their games to an average of 3 hours, 2 minutes.