Updated 6:05 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. - At a hastily-arranged news conference the NFL announced Tuesday that owners approved the new two-possession rule for overtime in the postseason. It passed with four votes to spare, 28-4, and the Bengals were one of the four no votes.
But if it comes up for a vote as expected in May to extend it to the regular season, Bengals president Mike Brown said he'd vote for it.
"Some feel there is an injury issue involved. I'm not sure I feel that way," Brown said of the extended overtime now in place of sudden death. "The continuity of our rules (is important). I like them being the same for regular season as well as postseason."
Tuesday's vote was a surprise on two fronts. Not only was the proposal thought to be in trouble, but it was expected to be on Wednesday, the final day of the meetings. In fact, one of the members of the competition committee wasn’t aware that the vote had happened.
“They waited until the coaches were out, huh?” he asked.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, a member of the competition committee, wasn’t readily available for comment. The coaches were scheduled for a golf outing Tuesday.
Both Brown and Lewis had expressed their desire to keep the current sudden-death format and the Bengals, along with Buffalo, Minnesota and Baltimore, voted against it.
"I don't see it as a stratospherically important issue. It's an interesting thing," Brown said. "I personally like what we have. I think it's decisive. I think it's quick. To me, it's equitable. What more fairer way than a coin flip? One team wins 50 percent of the time and one team loses 50 percent of the time."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay were the big proponents of the proposal that allows the team that loses the overtime coin flip a chance to match a field goal or score a winning touchdown. If the team that wins the flip scores a touchdown, the game is over.
Brown said the issue "is important to Roger," and he understands where Goodell is coming from.
"He fees the interest on this issue; probably more than I feel," Brown said. "From my perspective I like it the way it is. Now you have another way, at least in the postseason."
McKay said committee members met with coaches Sunday night and Monday morning, and there was a total of an hour and 45 minutes of meetings Tuesday.
Since overtime was born in 1974, several proposals to change the rule have been shot down and this one also looked to be doomed as late as Monday night. Now, suddenly of all things, there looks like it has enough momentum to maybe get changed for the regular season, too, when the owners have another meeting in May.
“I think the more you talked about it, the more you explained the problem; I’m not sure we did a good enough job crystallizing the statistics,” said McKay of the past. “I think this year we probably did a better job explaining the statistics showing the problem, and then proposing a rule that was still football. I don’t know if there was one voice. I know there were a number of owners that stood up and helped us.”
On Monday, Brown had said the buzzwords of the meeting were change and innovation, but he said that didn’t necessarily mean it would be for the better.
McKay came to the meeting armed with a blizzard of stats comparing two eras, from 1974 to 1993 when the kickoff was at the 35 and from 1994-09 when the kick was from the 30. From '74-93, 25.4 percent of the games had the team winning on the first possession and it rose to 34.3 percent in the past 26 seasons. McKay cited field-goal accuracy in the most recent era as the major reason for the shift and that overtime had to be adjusted to compensate.
"I didn't find any of the statistics overwhelming," Brown said.
It was hard to find a coach that was for it. Sean Payton, whose Super Bowl champion Saints won the NFC title game in OT on their first possession, said it gives coaches another way to get second-guessed.
"Their persepctive was how does it chage their world? What problems does it present for them?" Brown said. "And it does present problems they have to deal with. It's easy to discount those if you're sitting on top. I don't discount them."
On Tuesday morning before the vote, Lewis said he thought coaches would coach differently in the new format.
"Because you have to make a decision if it's fourth-and-2 and you have the ball and kick a 45-yard field goal, do you kick the field goal or do you go for it?" Lewis asked. "In the past you would kick the field goal and in this scenario you would go for it more on fourth down and move it down the field in the hopes of scoring a touchdown and ending the game.
"I think that’s really important and then on the other side of it there would be situations that occur defensively where you’re in an all or nothing situation where now you don’t play it that way and if you hold them to a field goal you’re going to get the ball and you have that opportunity. There’s some strategy involved where it’s different than the current one. It’s more like the end of the game where there's a close or tied football game and there’s two minutes to go."
Lewis did have some good things to say about the proposal, although he thinks "Play defense" should carry the day.
"A lot of the coaches say they don’t like the fact that a coach gets to use four downs against you. I say right now I’ll trade you," Lewis said. "You spot me the field goal in overtime and kick off to me right now. Let’s take our chances and I think we feel pretty good about that. There’s a lot of elements that come into play. For all the proposals we’ve discussed this is I think the most complete one."
When asked when a team fumbles away the onside kick if that counts as possession, Lewis said it does.
"You had a chance to possess the football. You had a chance to receive the football. It’s an opportunity to possess the ball," he said. "You don’t just onside kick. You do it when you see something on the opposing team and there’s a tendency there (guy cheating, leaving too fast, aligning too deep). It’s not just an onside kick. It’s not like we’re going to just lay down a bunt. You don’t just fake a punt haphazardly."