Overtime rules back on the table
Goodell, owners set to debate whether new format belongs in regular season
At their annual owners meeting in March, owners were so eager to vote in a change to the overtime playoff rule they rammed through a well-thought out proposal and passed it while coaches were on a golf course.
Do you have a query for John Clayton?
Click here to send a note to his mailbag.
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell will have to assess whether to implement the new overtime format during the regular season. After initially being mad about the new overtime rules for the playoffs, head coaches started to think it wouldn't be a bad idea to test those rules in the regular season.
What's debatable is whether Goodell will make the push to carry this into the regular season. We'll find out Tuesday when the owners meeting convenes in Dallas.
Under the new rules, if a team wins the coin toss and drives down to kick a field goal, the other team gets a possession. If the other team ties the game with a field goal, the game goes into sudden-death mode. Even the coaches who oppose the new rule would like to be able to try it during the regular season in order to practice strategies before the playoffs.
I still have reservations about using the format during the regular season. The concern is that it could create ties. Having the overtime rule in the playoffs can work because there are no playoff ties.
There are definitely more variables to consider when it comes to the new overtime format in the regular season. Don't be surprised if there is more caution this time around.
From the inbox
Q: There are only two QBs in the NFL who could handle Terrell Owens, and I would love to see him go to the Saints. I believe Drew Brees could keep him in check, and the locker room without a doubt would let Owens know the team belongs to Brees. I believe Owens wouldn't be asked to stretch the field; it would create more one-on-one matchups downfield for Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, allowing Marques Colston and Owens to work the middle. Plus, the energy the Superdome creates would charge Owens because the fans would embrace him. Should the Saints gamble on him?
Jovel in New Orleans
A: No. The reason is just the way that you phrased it. Putting T.O. on the field wouldn't create more one-on-one matchups for Colston, Moore, Meachem and Henderson because one or two of those receivers won't be on the field. Remember, the Saints create matchup problems by moving around Reggie Bush. Plus, they have Jeremy Shockey to help open things in the middle of the field. The Saints have plenty of weapons. You would bring in Owens with the realization that he might have to be forced a few passes a game just to keep him happy. The Saints' offense isn't forced. It's brilliant in concept, execution and talent. Plus, the cost could be a concern. T.O. would still want $5 million. Every other Saints receiver makes $2.85 million or less. Why should T.O. make more than the receivers who just carried the team to the Super Bowl? Bad move.
Fred in Buffalo, N.Y., wanted to know if the NFLPA has complained about the so-called voluntary practice sessions during the offseason. Usually, there will be one or two complaints a year about a coach going a little too far with the offseason program, but normally the complaints are small. Most players have workout bonuses to reward them for taking part in those voluntary workouts. Voluntary doesn't necessarily mean doing something for nothing. To Bo in Hilton Head, S.C., no chance of Terrell Owens landing in New England. In fact, to most of the others who asked questions about Owens, it looks as though Oakland is out. The only team that could do something is Washington, but I can't see that happening with Donovan McNabb there. Updating Barron in Detroit about any possibility of an Albert Haynesworth trade, it's not going to happen. Once the draft passed, the Redskins decided to keep him. Also, the slow recovery of Keith Bulluck's knee is holding back his chances of going back to the Titans or going to the Lions. Tony in Afghanistan, I do think that Frank Gore will have a very prominent role in 2010, but I don't know if it can be more than what he's had for the past several years. He's been the 49ers' leading rusher and leading pass-catcher since being there. The emphasis this season will be on running the football more, particularly with two first-rounders added to the offensive line. Updating Chuck in Memphis, Tenn., the Cowboys don't appear to be in the market for safety O.J. Atogwe of the Rams if he is released. Joshua in Jersey Shores, Pa., wonders about the successors to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the Dolphins' backfield. That will be a topic at next year's draft. I don't see them going to second-year back Lex Hilliard as the future starter. Rod in Blythe, Calif., the reason the Raiders didn't make a move for Jeff Garcia is that Al Davis wanted a younger quarterback and Jason Campbell was a good fit. I'm not sure Garcia won over Davis during his brief stay in Oakland. Robert in Greensboro, N.C., says he keeps reading how several core Jets players are upset about the departures of Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca and Leon Washington, but he asks if any of these players would take less cash when their contracts expire. Few players are willing to give up money to help other players because they are never sure the money will go to the other players. But it is hard for core players to lose three valuable parts of that core group. Those guys were leaders and good players. Wooly in Busan, South Korea, asks if this could be Donald Lee's final season in Green Bay because of the rise of tight end Jermichael Finley. Lee is scheduled to make around $2.48 million this season, the final year of the contract. The Packers will have to put more money into Finley, and that could hurt Lee's chances of staying. Kenny in Oak Harbor, Wash., believes Roy Williams will be the Cowboys' third receiver, with Dez Bryant starting. I still think it will be the other way around until Bryant gets settled. Cameron in Michigan is wondering about the chances of the Patriots picking up Shawne Merriman in a trade. Not happening. Bill Belichick would have to give up draft choice value for a one-year fix at outside linebacker and then pay Merriman big money. He won't do that. JT in Houston is becoming concerned about his Texans. Brian Cushing is suspended for four games. Andre Johnson is unhappy about his contract. Owen Daniels wants a long-term deal. Plus the Texans have the toughest schedule in the league. JT should be concerned. Eric in Union City, Calif., no deal between the Raiders and defensive end Richard Seymour is close, but I think something will eventually get done.
Q: Help me understand something. All these players are signing contracts, then wanting to renegotiate with several years still left. In most cases, these players had a chance to negotiate up front and were happy with their contracts. Someone else signs for more, and all of a sudden it's criminal. First, you negotiate the contract, honor it. Second, how is this fair to the teams? Each side tries to negotiate what is best, and hopefully they both end up with something livable.
Matt in Cleveland
A: You've touched on an unsolvable problem. In a sport of egos, every player thinks he's the best and wants to be paid the best. It all comes down to leverage and being in a position to get a contract. I look at the Andre Johnson situation as an example. He received $6.5 million in a signing bonus in 2008, extending his contract eight years and making him one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. Now he feels underpaid. Steve Smith did the same thing a few years ago in Carolina. The players have a legitimate point, though. Even though you sign a contract and should try to honor it, the team doesn't have to live up to that contract. It can cut a player at any time, and then the player is without a job. That's one thing the owners must realize as they head to a possible lockout. They don't want to risk losing a system that can get them out of financial obligations because most contracts aren't fully guaranteed as they are in the other sports.
Q: Being a Charger fan for the last six years, I've seen the evolution of the offense from Marty's run style to Norv's pass-happy offense. I've also seen the decline of LT and the run-blocking line. Are we so sure the problem was LT and not the line being able to run-block like it used to?
Brad in Owensboro, Ky.
A: As much as I hate to say it, I think the problem was more LaDainian Tomlinson than the offensive line. This offense is set up for the play-action pass and being able to run off play-action options. The Chargers' receivers are big. Philip Rivers probably throws more downfield tosses than anyone in football. That takes away that eighth defender coming into the box to stop the run. The running back in that offense simply has to make a defender miss and gain yards. Tomlinson has lost explosiveness through the hole and the ability to break long runs. That's a reality of his age and his number of carries. I consider him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and nothing at the end of his career is going to change my position. Watch the film of the playoff game against the Jets and the number of times Norv Turner ran Tomlinson on first down. It wasn't as much the blocking as LT's inability to explode. I think Ryan Mathews will be an upgrade to the running game.
Nick in Akron, Ohio
A: You can't remove a 1,200-yard receiver like Santonio Holmes from an offense and think things are going to get better, but Randle El was a nice move to fill the void. What will be missed is Holmes' explosiveness downfield. Holmes was a big outside receiver. Randle El is more of a slot option, but he did catch 50 passes last season.
Q: What is the deal with the Rams? Why haven't they made many moves in free agency?
Cory in St. Louis
A: Unfortunately, this wasn't the year to make many moves. Only 51 players have moved in free agency, and that includes nine to the Redskins at minimal cost. The Rams are like most of the teams at the top of the draft. They have to build through the draft and augment a little bit with free agency. Like most of those teams, there were more needs than draft choices could fill in one season, so you have to chip away at it. The smart thing was getting a quarterback, Sam Bradford. You ultimately win because of the play of your quarterback. The Rams could have signed nine free agents and still ended up with three or four wins.
Q: There's been so much talk about 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and how a defensive coordinator has to commit to one or the other, but why can't a defense switch between both? I realize it's largely about personnel, but defenses often switch between three-, four- and five-man fronts during a game depending on the situation -- and they always have a mix of power and speed guys -- so what gives?
Peter in Seattle
A: You ask a great question. Some defenses can be hybrids, juggling between the 3-4 and 4-3, but it's hard to fit the personnel correctly. A good 4-3 needs lighter, quicker linebackers. A good 3-4 needs bigger, more physical linebackers because the three-man line funnels ball carriers to the 'backers. You also need bigger corners to handle the tackling. In the 4-3, you can get away with quicker man-to-man corners. For a 3-4 to work, you have to have a big, powerful nose tackle. I will let you in on a secret, though. The best way to work between the two systems is what Jeff Fisher does in Tennessee. He uses a 4-3 that works like a 3-4. He plays his defensive ends in a "nine-technique" outside of the tackles. That allows the personnel office to use 250- to 260-pound ends who might be linebackers in a 3-4 or use a 280-pound defensive end with quickness. I don't know why more teams don't use the Titans' type of defense. It doesn't marry a roster to a certain personnel style.
Q: Just wondering what your thoughts are on the following situation: What if the Bills get into training camp and realize they have no clear-cut favorite to start opposite Lee Evans? Will they then look to bring back Terrell Owens? And what are the chances the Bills actually trade Marshawn Lynch?
Zach B in Buffalo, N.Y.
A: That might have to be an option, bringing back Owens. The question will be how much less than the $6.5 million he made last year he would be willing to take. The Bills got worse at wide receiver instead of better. They didn't re-sign Owens and Josh Reed. They have fewer options to free up Evans than they did before Owens arrived, and that clearly has to be a problem. That's why I can't believe they didn't do something at wide receiver other than a fourth-round choice. As for the Lynch trade, the Bills would have to take such a discounted value that they might as well keep him. Would you give up Lynch for a fifth-round pick or less? I'd rather have the player than the fifth-round pick. They've boxed themselves into a bad position. They need to trade for a left tackle, but giving up a second-round choice would look bad because they didn't get a second-rounder for Jason Peters. And they need to find a receiver. The team could be a three-win team, and if that's the case, they need the draft choices to get better in the future.
Q: How to you see the AFC West unfolding this season? Or more specifically, do you think (based off what they have done in the offseason), the Raiders have a chance at the division title?
Merak in Oakland, Calif.
A: It's still a one-team race, with the Chargers probably wrapping up the division crown by the first or second week of December. The change could come in second place. The Broncos are in transition at quarterback, offensive line and along the defensive line. The Raiders made a smart move by improving the quarterback position with Jason Campbell and could jump the Broncos for second place. If they can get to nine or 10 wins, maybe the Raiders can go for a wild card, but the Chargers still should run away with the division title.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Ravens rally past Browns, earn playoff spot
- Bucs blow big lead, lose to secure No. 1 pick
- Chiefs hold on to spoil Chargers' playoff hopes
- Watt sets NFL record with 2nd 20-sack season