Five Shoot Out Formats the NFL Could Try Instead of Allowing Ties


Nov 24, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy (left) greets Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier (right) following the game at Lambeau Field. The Vikings and Packers tied 26-26. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone says “a tie is like kissing your sister.” Not being one to smooch with my siblings, I have no idea if this is a valid statement. I do know that ties stink. They leave you with an icky unfulfilled feeling. You don’t know whether to be happy or sad or what. Not a fun way to feel after watching a whole football game plus overtime.

After today’s Vikings-Packers tie, the second tie in the long history of that particular series, and the first 26-26 tie in NFL history – woooo history! – there was some discussion with players about possible ways the NFL could settle these games without allowing the score to end up in a tie. Short of letting the two teams keep slugging away until someone wins – or players start dying of exhaustion – what can you do to prevent unsatisfying knotted-score outcomes?

One suggestion is for the NFL to take a page from hockey and soccer and have some kind of shoot out at the end of one overtime period. But what form would this shoot out take? Here are some formats that might work.

1. Field goals.

The most obvious shoot out format would involve the kickers coming out for a field goal showdown. One thing you might do is have both kickers get a shot from thirty, and if they both make it, move it back five yards and keep doing that, going back five more yards each time until someone misses. Another suggestion is to have both kickers start out from fifty yards out and just keep going back and forth until someone misses. But would it really be satisfying to have kickers decide the game in a shoot out after 75 minutes of brutal football combat?

Well kickers often already decide games as it is. If one team can’t secure the win after 75 minutes, they don’t deserve any more chances anyway. Leave it up to the kickers.

2. Kickoff returns.

The problem with letting kickers settle the game is that field goals are boring. If you want to decide the game in a truly exciting way, how about a kickoff shoot out? The kickoff return touchdown is arguably the most electrifying single play in all football. It would be a thousand times more thrilling to have the game end with the two teams trading kickoffs until someone runs one all the way back.

As exciting as the kickoff shoot out would be, the idea obviously has some flaws. One, your guys are going to get really tired after a couple of these. Two, the chance of injury is going to be tremendous with teams running kickoffs over and over. Three, it still focuses in on a specialized element of the game without allowing true offense vs. defense to settle the matter. So as exciting as it might be, it’s far from ideal. In fact it would probably be a completely insane thing to do.

3. Passing shoot out

So what we want is a shoot out that doesn’t rely on kicking or some specialized element of the game like returns. We want some semblance of actual offensive vs. defensive football, our guys lining up against your guys and seeing who is better. Since this is a shoot out scenario, it wouldn’t make sense to have both full units line up. Then you might as well just keep playing until someone wins. Or adopt the college overtime.

In order for this to truly be a shoot out, it needs to have a one-on-one element, like in hockey and soccer when it’s just one shooter against the goaltender. Here’s something that might work. Line up your quarterback and best receiver at the 25 yard line, and have the defense put their best cover guy on the field, and then send the receiver into the end zone and see if he can catch a TD against one-on-one coverage.

This would be awesome in a backyard screwing-around-with-a-Nerf-ball sort of way. It would definitely be better than field goals. And barring some freak event, it would be much safer than the kickoff shoot out. Oh and if your cover guy gets called for interference, it’s the same as a touchdown. To make things more urgent, you could put a ten second pass clock on the quarterback or have a defender in there counting up to five-Mississippi and then rushing. Two-hand touch on the QB of course; don’t want QBs getting hurt.

4. Rushing shoot out

A variation on the passing shoot out would be lining up your best runner against their best tackler. This would be great if you had Adrian Peterson on your team. Would any defender in the league have a shot at tackling Adrian one-on-one with the game on the line?

I don’t like this idea nearly as much as I like the passing shoot out idea, because I think it would be too easy for the runner to beat the tackler. One spin move and it’s basically over. Maybe you let the defense have a safety back as well, with a stipulation that he must remain at least ten yards off the line of scrimmage. Then your guy has to beat two guys. That makes it somewhat more interesting. But I’m thinking Adrian still wins in that scenario nine out of ten times.

5. Hail Mary shootout

This one is simple. You get the ball at the fifty and get to try a Hail Mary pass. If you fail, the other team gets to try a Hail Mary pass. And back and forth until someone succeeds in scoring a touchdown. This one would be by-and-large safer than the kickoff shoot out, while at the same time integrating full offensive and defensive units. And it would not boil the game down to a field goal kick or a gimmicky thing like a one-on-one showdown.

The problem with this for me is that executing a successful Hail Mary is very hard. Much like the kick return shoot out, this would have the potential to go back-and-forth for an extended period of time and lead to guys getting tired and possibly injured. The solution would be to move the line of scrimmage in five yards after each unsuccessful attempt, until you get to the thirty and then you just keep going from the thirty. Eventually you have to think one team would be able to score. Of course the team with the weak-armed quarterback would be at a great disadvantage in this shoot out.

I can’t think of any teams with weak-armed quarterbacks though, can you?

Which one of these format do you like the best? Or is contemplating the whole idea just a waste of time since ties are so rare anyway?

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