Skip to main content

John Harbaugh Explains the Thinking Behind 'Spot and Choose' Rule Proposal

HC John Harbaugh
HC John Harbaugh

The Ravens' “Spot and Choose” overtime rule change proposal is new on the docket this year, but it's something Head Coach John Harbaugh and Baltimore's coaches have been talking about for close to a decade.

Harbaugh shed light on Baltimore's revolutionary proposal this week, saying the idea first came up in analytical circles and was brought to his attention by former Ravens running backs coach Matt Weiss around 2010 when the league started talking about altering the overtime rules.

"I know [Weiss] thought it would be the best thing way back then. It was definitely way before its time. It still may be before its time – I don't know, we'll find out," Harbaugh said.

"We like to be kind of progressive in our thinking here. It's not always the case; sometimes the league is a little more protective. … We're really excited about it, and hopefully it'll pass."

To review, Baltimore's plan would have no kickoff at the start of overtime. Instead, one team would pick what yard line play would begin at and the other team would choose whether to play offense or defense. The team who wins the coin toss chooses whether to "spot" or "choose." The Ravens have two proposals, one with the winner determined by sudden death (first team to score) and the other with a full 7 ½-minute period to see which team finishes with the most points.

"We feel like it's kind of a move back toward tradition. It's an opportunity to make either sudden death, or if they wanted to, the other proposal is the idea of a basketball-style overtime – which is fine with us," Harbaugh said. "We think the main thing is the 'spot and choose' aspect of it is to make it fair. Any luck involved would be the bounce of the ball, not the flip of the coin. I think that's something the fans would appreciate."

The other intriguing aspect is that it adds more strategy and drama to the game. If the ball is at 10-yard line, for example, would New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick send his offense on to the field to win the game? Or would he rather see if his defense is up to the task of delivering a short field?

It's a way to put NFL coaches in the driver's seat of making analytical (and sometimes probably gut) decisions. It would certainly open the door for more second-guessing, but isn't that part of the fun of sports? Belichick, by the way, reportedly supports the rule change.

"While it's really intriguing and fun – there's a lot to it strategically – it's a very simple concept," Harbaugh said. "Easy to understand, I think, once you get your arms around it. It's a lot fewer lines in the rule book, I can tell you that."

Related Content