Tim Harford on NFL overtime
At Slate, economist Tim Harford lends support to the "auction" suggestion for NFL overtime.
As it stands now, possession on OT is determined by a coin toss; the team that loses the toss has to kick off from their own 30-yard line. But that's too big an advantage for the receiving team. From 2000 to 2007, Brian Burke reports that teams winning the toss won 60% of games.
Harford suggests that the 30-yard line was appropriate back when the rule was created in 1974, before field-goal kickers got so good. But now, it gives too much of an advantage to the flip winner.
He suggests, as did Brian before him, that the teams themselves decide what yard line is fair. One way to do this is to flip a coin again; the loser of the flip picks a yard line, and the winner of the flip then decides whether to start on offense (at that yard line), or defense (where the other team starts at that yard line).
Another possibility is an auction. The referee will start naming off yard lines, starting at the 1 and moving up. As soon as one of the coaches is willing to take the ball on offense at that line, he throws down his challenge flag.
Either one of these options sounds reasonable to me. I prefer the first one, because, after a few tries, there will emerge a consensus wisdom on what the right yard line is, and what looks to be the fun drama of the auction will get boring pretty quick. Plus, you might need a replay to see which coach was first, if they both choose the same outcome.