There is nothing more anticlimactic than attending an American football game and witnessing a tie. And tie games are slowly becoming the new problem in the National Football League, a trend that is not just boring for the fans, but frankly un-American.
Before 1974, tie games weren’t uncommon at all due to the fact that there was just simply no overtime. Teams just simply played until the end of regulation and a tie was declared if the score was even. Between 1970-1973, there were 29 tie games, including nine in 1970.
In 1974, sudden death overtime was introduced and the amount of ties fell drastically. Of 494 games that went into the extra quarter of overtime between 1974 and 2011, only 17 games (3.4 percent) resulted in a tie and just four since 1989. This system, however wasn’t perfect as a majority of the teams who received the ball first won by driving down the field and kicking a field goal before the opposing team could even touch the ball. Unless, of course, you’re Marty Mornhinweg.
Because the winner of the coin toss was more likely to win in overtime, the NFL changed their rules in 2012 to a modified system that allowed both teams to get the ball in overtime – as long as the team who plays defense first is able to stop the opposing offense from scoring a touchdown. The rules were changed again in 2017, shortening the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10.
Under this new rule, the percentage of games resulting in ties has nearly doubled. Eighty-three regular season games have gone the extra quarter between 2012 and 2016 and five (6 percent) ended in a tie. Two weeks into the 2018 season and there have already been two ties, both in important divisional games.
The 16-game NFL schedule is way too short for tie games to occur, which can have a way of impacting multiple teams hunting for a Wild Card spot, or the order for the draft in April. The NFL is the one professional sport where arguably every game matters and wins and losses mean significantly more than say baseball’s 162 games or the 82 games in hockey and basketball.
Speaking of hockey, even the NHL, a league where ties were as common of an occurrence as soccer. has found a way to eliminate tie games, though some are not a fan of the shootout.
I think the resolution is to just get rid of the game clock, give both teams the chance with the ball and if there is not a winner at that point, let the teams continue to play football until someone scores. It keeps the sudden death atmosphere while still being fair to both teams and not turning it into a skills competition (as hockey fans say about the shootouts).
At the end of the day, tie games are just bad for the game both from a team perspective and for the fans, and too much of an easy fix to ignore. When there is a tie game, everyone loses (except maybe the Browns ending their losing streak).