No doubt, this is true. But this doesn’t justify having sudden death. The game is a contest to determine who, on this day, is better. In a tie situation, the teams are obviously evenly matched. Sudden death does not entangle this and show that one team is better.
So why have sudden death?
One reason might be to prevent injury by playing a full 5th quarter. Another 15 minutes of football after 60 minutes of football means a lot of fatigued guys running around. Likelihood of injury probably is increased. Sudden death ends the game once someone scores, so typically the game will end without another full 15 minutes of playing.
This is reasonable, but points more to scoring the game a tie. If injury is the concern here, why not avoid the possibility all together and not have an overtime? After all, if the game is tied after the overtime period (in the regular season), the game is scored a tie. After 60 minutes of regulation, what’s wrong with having a tie? Nonetheless, for post-season games a resolution is needed. So why have sudden death as the scenario? Other than injury concerns, I haven’t come up with another reason.
The central problem with sudden death is that it makes it possible that the contest is determined on the basis of one component of the game. Football is a contest with three distinct components: special teams, defense, and offense. Both sides in sudden death engage in special teams. But if the game is won on the first possession, the teams only play either defense or offense. And this happens, historically, about 30% of the time (Source) A true test of a football match is not just how well a team plays defense, but how well it plays both offense and defense.
The rules should be designed to make sure that each team in each overtime gets to exercise all three components in the determination of the victory. Sudden death fails this, and so makes the game an incomplete contest.
There are several options for such rules:
- Play a full period.
- Use the NCAA system of giving each side a possession.
- Give the scored-on team an opportunity to score, if they fail to, the game ends.
While playing a full period seems unnecessary and raises injury concerns, I don’t see a problem with either the NCAA or similar systems that insure each side has an offensive and defensive possession.