By a vote of 28-4, the league's owners voted to accept a "modified sudden death" system, in which the team that wins the coin toss can win the game with a touchdown on its first possession but not with a field goal. Should the first team to possess the ball in a postseason overtime score a field goal, it would have to kickoff to the other team, which would then get the chance to tie the game with its own field goal (and continue overtime on a sudden-death basis from that point) or win it with a touchdown. If the team with possession first fails to score at all, the opposing team could win with a field goal.
The Bills, Vikings, Ravens and Bengals were the only teams that voted against the proposal, and several teams expressed an interest in changing the rule for regular-season games as well. That could get taken up again at the owners meetings in Dallas in May, but for now the rule change applies only to postseason games, including the Super Bowl.
"There were plenty of people on the [NFL's competition] committee, myself included, who were not inclined to be in favor of this," Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian said. "But once you got into the statistics, people started to say, 'Yeah, this is a problem that needs to be fixed.'"
McKay and the competition committee determined that improved field-goal accuracy from long distance, as well as the change in the spot of the kickoff, had created an unfair advantage to the team that won the overtime coin toss. A long kick return, one good pass play and a penalty, they say, can get you in position to win the game with a field goal. They determined that this was unfair, and they believe their fix addresses the perceived "problem."
But whether McKay's statistical arguments were sound or not, they likely didn't have as much impact as commissioner Roger Goodell did when he publicly threw his support behind the new proposal Monday morning. Goodell was strongly encouraging owners to pass the proposal behind the scenes.
"Don't let perfect get in the way of better," Goodell said he told owners. "I'm not sure there is a perfect overtime system. This has potential to be a better system."
The feeling among owners as they arrived here Sunday for the league meeting was that the proposal didn't have enough support to pass (it needed 24 of 32 votes). But something changed over the past couple of days, and a vote was hastily called Tuesday afternoon when the proposal's supporters realized they had enough votes.
"We felt we had an opportunity to make what we think is a pretty good rule -- sudden death -- even better," McKay said. "We felt a change needed to be made."