Why Doesn’t The NFL Adopt College Football’s Overtime Rules?

Just like any other cool 23 year old in the world on a Sunday night, I was watching Sunday Night Football with a Michelob Ultra clutched firmly in my hand as if it were a 58 degree sand wedge. The Houston Texans playing the Dallas Cowboys. No worries. Just time to watch football, sip a brew and eat Queensland Chicken and Shrimp from Outback Steakhouse.

A great game that led us into an overtime duel. For those that don’t keep up with the game or the numbers, there has been eight overtime games in five weeks of NFL play in 2018. I was texting some friends of mine and I had an epiphany.

Why hasn’t the NFL adopted the NCAA’s College Football overtime rules?

I honestly have always felt this way. I think College Football does it the best way you possibly can do it. Super fair, and much more interesting than a boring back and forth three and out snooze fest that we often see in NFL overtime games.

Here are the best overtime rules in the game of football:

  • If a game is tied at the conclusion of four quarters, it goes to overtime.
  • The officials will invite each team’s captains (no more than four per team) to the 50-yard line for the overtime coin toss. The designated field captain for the visiting team will call heads or tails. The winning team of the coin toss can either decide to play offense or defense, or which end of the field will be used for both possessions of that overtime period. The decision cannot be deferred.
  • The team that loses the coin toss will execise the remaining option (e.g. If the winning team decides to play offense/defense, the losing team will decide which end of the field will be used, and vice versa). The losing team will also have the first choice of the two options for subsequent even-numbered overtime periods, while the team that wins the coin toss will get the first choice for subsequent odd-numbered overtime periods.
  • Each overtime period consists of a two-possession series with each team getting one possession on offense and one on defense. The team on offense will always start at the designated 25-yard line (unless relocated by a penalty). The team on offense can choose to start its possession with the football anywhere on or between the hash marks.
  • Each team will receive one timeout for every overtime period. Timeouts not used during regulation cannot be used during overtime and an unused timeout allotted for one overtime period cannot be carried over to another overtime period. Timeouts used between overtime periods will be charged to the succeeding period.
  • Each team retains the ball until it scores or fails to make a first down.
  • The team that scores the most points during regulation and overtime wins the game. If the game is still tied after an overtime period, there will be another overtime period.
  • Beginning with the third overtime period, teams that score a touchdown must attempt a two-point conversion.


That is the way to play. I love this because it gives each team a chance to be in striking distance. No kick off, no punt options. You get the ball at a striking distance and you either put up more/same amount of points in a series than the other opponent does, or you lose. But even at the end of your even-played battle, you’re forced to gamble and someone has to lose.

After a second overtime period, you’re forced to go for a two-point conversion if you score a touchdown. That is where I think professional football can bridge the gap with College Football. It’s a 4th down and BALL GAME play. Beat or match the points, playa. Win it, survive it or fight it. Offense vs Defense. A battle. A battle so intriguing that at the end, we crown a winner. Not a draw.

In College Football, there are no ties. That died years ago in this beautiful sport. You play until you have a winner. No clock. You grind it out. The NFL allowing that to exist is a stain on the game of football. When you have a CONTEST, that means you have a WINNER. A winner and a loser. Life is a contest. Life is made up of winners and losers. No in-betweens. You’re either the CEO or the janitor.

Here’s NFL overtime rules, guys:


  • At the end of regulation, the referee will toss a coin to determine which team will possess the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
  • No more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.
  • Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
  • Each team gets two timeouts.
  • The point after try is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
  • If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, the result of the game will be recorded as a tie.
  • There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.


To make it even better, there are another set of rules for Postseason NFL games: 

  • If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
  • There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
  • Another coin toss will be held before the third overtime period. The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
  • Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
  • The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
  • If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.


You can’t sit here, reading this article, and tell me that COLLEGE FOOTBALL’s overtime rules wouldn’t work magnificently well in the NFL! It would be so awesome to watch.

Think about, ponder on it and respond to it. You could, possibly, end up in the weekly Monday Mailrun right here on Par The Course.

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