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Posted: Monday March 22, 2010 8:56AM; Updated: Wednesday March 24, 2010 2:16PM
Peter King
Peter King>MONDAY MORNING QB

Modifying OT seems like longshot; Tebow may creep into first round

Story Highlights

Four reasons overtime reform for the playoffs isn't likely to pass

Tim Tebow's draft stock is on the rise thanks to his new throwing motion

Quick-hit thoughts on March Madness, Five for Fighting update, more

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The Vikings-Saints NFC Championship Game, decided by a field goal by Garrett Hartley (5), is thought to be a good example of what's wrong with the overtime system.
Bob Rosato/SI

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Everyone here at the NFL owners meetings seems to have a "yeah, but'' reaction when they talk about the overtime-reform rule. As in, "Yeah, the stats are stark that something needs to be done, but we don't like this rule,'' or, "Yeah, I know it's too easy to make three first downs and kick the winning field goal, but I don't like a rule only for the postseason.''

The only drama here this week is whether Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay of the Falcons can be political enough and diplomatic enough to convince 24 teams to change the 36-year-old, sudden-death overtime rule for the 2010 postseason. McKay has six members of his eight-man committee convinced that the time for reform has come, including longtime if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it Indy GM Bill Polian. The committee is proposing to change sudden death to a modified sudden death -- one that guarantees a two-possession overtime unless a touchdown is scored on the first possession.

I don't think this is the year. McKay's making progress, but I spoke to three team officials at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes who aren't ready to support change. Four reasons:

1. Even though the NFC Championship Game was the classic example of what's wrong with the current system -- a single-possession OT with a kickoff return to the 39, two defensive penalties and a 40-yard chipshot field goal to decide the NFC title -- there's no real momentum for change. As one NFC GM told me Sunday night: "Is there a poll anywhere with fans demanding a new format for overtime? Where's the demand coming from? I don't hear it from fans or from players.''

2. Coaches don't seem to want it. "I want to be fair, and I want to hear the arguments from the committee because I respect the Competition Committee,'' one AFC coach said. "But there's going to be decisions that have to be made if you change overtime from sudden death, strategy we're going to have to think about. I think it's just another thing we've got to worry about, with all the other decisions we have to make.''

3. The just-play-defense faction is as loud as the reform faction. I loved what Polian said to a few of us in the lobby Sunday afternoon: "This rule does allow the defense to play defense, because if you hold them to a first down on the first possession, you've still got a shot. It actually forces you to play defense. If you can't play defense, you're going to get [a touchdown scored on you].'' Maybe he can arm-twist his brethren in Baltimore and Cincinnati today.

4. Some don't want a different rule in the postseason from the regular season. The reason the committee is proposing it solely for the postseason is to respect those worried about subjecting players to more plays through the year, and to only have it in the case of the playoff games. "That makes no sense to me,'' said one GM. "What if you have a game in Week 15 with huge playoff implications? To me, that's a playoff game.''

As I wrote last week, this may be one of those rules that needs to be a battering ram, sort of like instant replay was for a few years in the nineties before being adopted. Maybe it'll adopt new converts next year, like Roger Goodell and Polian, who see this year how much more just a modified overtime would be.

***

The NFL Draft's a month from today, and this weekend has proven one thing to me: Tim Tebow's going higher than we thought he would.

Even after Tebow performed with much-improved mechanics in his on-campus pro day Wednesday in Gainesville, I thought it might be good enough to get him into the second round, but who wanted to spend a second-rounder in a very deep draft on a guy you might need to redshirt for two years?

But something interesting has happened this weekend. Most agents are happy to tell you where their client will be visiting before the draft and which teams he'll be working out for. A top player is usually happy to talk about a conversation he had with Bill Belichick or advice he got on how to throw the ball from Mike Holmgren. Not Tebow's agent Jimmy Sexton over the weekend. And not Tebow. Both said they'd like to keep the opinions from the teams to themselves, and they'd like to keep which teams are interested to themselves, partly because the teams had requested as much.

Of course, it's an open secret that Washington coach Mike Shanahan worked out Tebow in Gainesville on Saturday, and that Cleveland, Seattle, New England and Buffalo will either do so or already have. But you won't get that from the Tebow camp.

What this tells me is teams interested in Tebow don't want the other teams interested in Tebow to know how interested they are. If, for instance, the Seahawks want to add Tebow to the Matt Hasselbeck/Charlie Whitehurst stable and they hold the 60th overall pick in Round 2 (which I now think will be too low for Tebow), they don't want to telegraph their interest in case they plan to try to move into the 40s to get him. With New England having three picks in the second round (44, 47, 53), the Patriots could be in prime position to take Tebow and groom him as either a long-term replacement for Tom Brady (I don't buy that, with Brady wanting to play eight more years) or as a durable, versatile offensive weapon who could play multiple positions.

I now think Tebow's going in the 28 to 45 range, to a team willing to be patient with him at quarterback and maybe to allow him to help the team in other ways immediately. That's how much he helped himself with the aggressive remaking of his throwing motion at his workout Wednesday.

"I got a lot of slack out of my motion,'' he told me Sunday night. "I'm holding it higher, releasing it quicker. It's kind of like in golf, not going back as far on your backswing. I'm not going back as far with my arm, but I don't feel I'm losing any power or any accuracy when I throw.''

I asked Tebow if he thought he'd be a first-round pick, and there was a long pause.

"Heh-heh,'' he said, chuckling a little uncomfortably. "Not sure. Good question. I believe with all my heart that I'll be an NFL quarterback, but who takes me, and where, I don't know.''

The draft is a month from today. For the next 24 days, Tebow can work out for teams in Gainesville or visit teams for interviews at their facilities. He said he may do another workout for teams in Gainesville. And he said he hasn't decided whether to accept the NFL's invitation to attend the draft in New York -- though he sounded like he wouldn't.

"I've got to figure out what will be more fun for me and best for my family,'' he said. "But I have to say I liked what [Cleveland tackle] Joe Thomas did on the day of the draft a couple of years ago -- he went fishing with his dad.''

If I were him, I'd stay as far away from New York as I could on draft day. If he gets picked low in the first round, the cameras of ESPN and NFL Network will be on him all night. And if he goes undrafted through the first round, all day Friday -- rounds two and three are scheduled for Friday the 23rd -- will be Tim Tebow Watch. But Tebow's life has changed for the better since a lousy Senior Bowl, and he might have done enough to make quarterback-needy teams face a tough decision a month from now.

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