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Grotz: Super Bowl OT outcome about much more than luck of the coin flip

If you ripped Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan for taking the ball first in overtime of Super Bowl LVIII, just remember there is help available for your disorder. Others have benefitted from it, and so can you.

Shanahan’s decision didn’t decide the winner or loser Sunday. The players did, and that’s the way it was supposed to work when the NFL owners voted to accept the recommendation of the Competition Committee to guarantee both teams at least one possession in postseason overtimes.

That’s different than the regular season, when the team that wins the coin flip and takes the ball first wins with a touchdown, and the opposition wins if it scores with or after a turnover. Repeat, unless there is a turnover, both teams get at least one possession in OT.

This was the first playoff game with the new overtime rules. Small sample size, right? The strategy involved in receiving or deferring is as subjective as could be. Yet armchair quarterbacks full of themselves implied the 49ers would have prevailed had they just kicked off after winning the overtime coin flip.

We all know what happened. The 49ers kicked a field goal on the first possession, and Kansas City scored a touchdown to secure a 25-22 decision and a second straight Lombardi Trophy. And the criticism of Shanahan began.

“They’re crazy, they’re crazy,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “Because the overtime rules have changed where both teams get the ball no matter who scores. So, originally, you want to let the other team get the ball, stop them holding the three, so you know what you’ve got to do. Or if you stop them, they punt it, then all you have to do is kick three.”

That makes no sense to me, which is the point. People acted like Shanahan didn’t know the rule.

“We decided before just the way we’re going to go, just discussing it,” Shanahan said. “We don’t have a lot of experience in that and our biggest thing was we knew both teams were going to get the ball at least once so we wanted to make sure if we won the toss we wanted to be the team who got (the ball) the third time.”

You can’t rationally argue that deferring and taking the ball second is guaranteed to work. Certainly, the team getting the ball second knows what it has to do. In the case of the Chiefs, if they didn’t match the field goal of the 49ers on their possession, it would’ve game over. Same as the old rule. If the Chiefs scored a TD, it would mean a win. Same as the old rule.

If the game is tied after one possession each, whoever scores next prevails. What are we missing here about taking your possession first? It makes more sense to be the team that gets the third possession, right?

There were even arguments that the 49ers would never get the ball back for a third possession because Patrick Mahomes was in an incredible rhythm. So, defer and give him the ball right back? Give the football right back to a red hot Mahomes with your defense already sucking air?

“There’s two ways you can go with it,” Andy Reid said. “I’m not sure there’s a right answer necessarily. Ours ended up being the right one. That easily could have gone the other way. That’s what we felt was the right thing to do. I’m never going to question Kyle because he’s brilliant. That was just something that we chose throughout our studies. We felt that was important.”

Whatever you say, Big Red. What he should have said is that when your quarterback is Mahomes, you have a chance to win even if Taylor Swift’s boyfriend almost knocks you over in a sideline tantrum. (Shame on you, Travis Kelce).

In college football overtimes, teams tend to defer because it helps them narrow down what they have to do to prevail. They also start at the opposition’s 25-yard line, not their own 25 after a touchback. Not the same, folks, with field position and punting in play.

Back to the Super Bowl. The new overtime rules were posted on the scoreboards at Allegiant Stadium for all to see. Of all the Super Bowl overkill in the past two weeks — and I tried to take it all in — not once did the head talking heads or players turned analysts discuss how critical it would be to defer if you win the coin flip in OT because there’s a new playoff rule. Not once. But now it’s a major issue. Sheer stupidity.

Give the rule a reasonable test before blasting people for issues you have no clue about it. This stuff is new.

Even Super Bowl referee Bill Vinovich stumbled through his explanation of the new overtime playoff rule.

“In playoff overtime we’re going to start a new game,” Vinovich said on camera to Fred Warner of the Niners and Mahomes, who came out for the coin toss. “All replays (reviews) are upstairs. Everybody will have three timeouts, alright? Both teams will have an opportunity to score. Or an opportunity to possess, unless the first team to possess gives up a defensive score. Alright? Any questions?”

Just one. What’s the over/under on nitwits who debate the decision not to defer?

To contact Bob Grotz, email

Source: Berkshire mont

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