The NFL offseason is not just the time to prepare your team for the challenges that lie ahead, it also gives the league an opportunity to evaluate its rule book and make changes if initiated by either the clubs or the competition committee and agreed to in ownership vote. One of this year’s proposals apparently also has the support of Bill Belichick.
The New England Patriots’ head coach, according to a report by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, is in favor of a recent plan presented by the Baltimore Ravens that would alter overtime and make it less reliant on the coin flip.
The Ravens’ pretty radical proposal would work like this: The team that wins the overtime coin flip picks a spot on the field where the ball will be placed to start the fifth period, while the other club chooses whether to play offense or defense.
If Team A picks the 20-yard line, for example, Team B could decide whether to send its offense onto the field and start from its own 20 or to play defense from the opponent’s 20. The proposal would therefore not just lessen the impact the coin flip might have, it would also eliminate the overtime kickoff and immediately begin the extra quarter with a play from scrimmage. From that point on, the Ravens’ proposal has two follow-up scenarios.
One of those, also has Belichick’s support:
Under one of the two proposals to be made by the Ravens, overtime would proceed in sudden-death fashion, with the first score by either team ending the game and up to 10 minutes of extra time. (If the game remains tied at that point, the game’s outcome would be a tie.) Under the other proposal (favored, we’re told, by Patriots coach Bill Belichick), the game would continue for another seven minutes and 30 seconds, without a sudden-death component. Whoever leads after the extra time has ended would be the winner. (Again, if the game remains tied after the extra session, the game’s outcome would be a tie.)
While it is not known how Belichick and his team feel about the basic idea behind the Ravens’ proposal — the spot-and-choose aspect to start overtime — it is clear that he wants the league to change its overtime format and eliminate the current sudden death element.
Under the present set of rules, overtime starts just like the regular game. The road team calls the coin toss, with the winner allowed to pick whether to receive or kick away the football. If the team that receives the extra time kickoff then proceeds to score a touchdown on its first series, the game is over. If that team fails or kicks a field goal, the opponent receives an opportunity. At that point, any score immediately wins the game.
While the Patriots took advantage of this format twice in recent memory — Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons, the 2018 AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs — Belichick himself endorses a set extra period without sudden death. Be it 10 or 15 minutes, the future Hall of Famer wants the fifth quarter to be just like the other four.
Back in 2012, he shared his thoughts on the topic during an appearance on WEEI (h/t Mike Reiss).
“I think the best part of the football game is the end of the game — whether you take your timeouts, how you manage the game, the last two minutes, getting the ball back, trying to keep the ball away from the other team, whatever it is,” Belichick said back then. “I think that combines all the elements of football.”
As for the Ravens’ proposal, it will need 24 votes in order to be adopted at the Annual League Meeting later this month.
The same is true for other rule change ideas as well, and there is at least one that might see the Patriots’ support as well: according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista, the NFL is considering a rule change that would allow teams to review roughing the passer penalties. Belichick has long maintained the stance that everything that happens on the field should be reviewable.