Blog Entry

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Posted on: January 3, 2012 1:51 am

Due to incredible demand (okay...maybe it's just a few vocal individuals)...I'd like to float this blog entry to discuss NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures.

Discussion topics should include:

- Any questions on the Rules and how they are applied in figuring out NFL scenarios prior to the end of the regular season (my job for last 18 seasons)

- Historical Anecdotes on NFL Tiebreaking Rules and past examples of the application of the Rules on Prior seasons

- Potential ways for the NFL to improve the Tiebreaker Rules

- Why can't we all just get along?  (kidding...sort of)

- Anything else that comes up NFL Tiebreaker, Draft order, Scheduling Formula related

Hopefully we'll get our regulars here along with some new voices to chime in...and I will check here as often as possible to answer any questions directed at me.

Let the party begin!!!

Category: NFL

Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 31, 2012 10:48 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Brett,

LOL...  my original wording from last year was void of any use of the word "group".  I only began including based on rewording suggestions that you were introducing.

If we go back to last year in the other tiebreaker discussion blog on Dec 15th 2010 @ 11:42 am, you'll find my wording there was:

A sweep qualifies where one or more clubs has each defeated or each lost to each of the remaining clubs.

Then it was this year that I realized that because we are including "one or more" in the definition that the mirror image is contained in the definition and there for could be shortened to:

"Apply when one or more clubs has each defeated each of the remaining clubs"

So in summary I am more than happy ditching the use of the word "group", in fact it was my original preference.

Finally, since mathematically the above definition is sufficient.  How about we instead include 3 examples in the Procedural Clarification section like how is done for the Conference ranking.

H2H sweep examples -  Example1: If Team A has defeated both Teams B and C, then Teams B and C are eliminated and Team A wins the tiebreaker.  Example2: Teams A, B and C have each defeated Team D, so Team D is eliminated and Teams A, B, and C revert to step 1.  Example 3: Teams A and B have each defeated both Teams C and D, therefore Teams C and D are eliminated and Teams A and B revert to step 1.

I realize that in those examples we could be technically reverting to conference record, but in keeping it consistent for the reader it's probably best to instruct them to revert to step 1 in the example even if it is intutively obvious that we know in advance that step 1 won't break the tie after this immediate revert.  I'm pretty sure this is the case.

I'll try to get around to your other reply's too, but I wanted to reply quickly on the H2H stuff.

-Cheers
-Jerry

Since: Dec 9, 2008
Posted on: January 31, 2012 12:35 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

You should never be eliminated from the playoffs because of a coin!

Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 31, 2012 3:16 am

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

(1) "Interdivision can be better definied." "between" is typical for 2 teams. "among" is typical for 3 or more.
- perhaps "among" is a better choice of words. Although I think "among" is lacking in that it is typically not the best word for when there are exactly two teams.

(2) "Not all steps involve records."
- point well taken.

(3) "coin flip" is preferred to "random selection".
- ok!

(4) "Reverting with only the non-eliminated teams."
- this seems unnecessary to include. By definition, "eliminated teams" are dropped from consideration. I don't think anyone would revert with the eliminated teams, not even newcomers.

(5) "bullet points" vs. "paragraph form".
- I prefer bullet points.

(6) The section, "Breaking a Multi-team divisonal tie" is unnecessary as all this is covered in the bullet points.
- I disagre because your bullet points are in a section called "Breaking Ties for Post-Season Play". As we know, divisional ties must be broken whether or not the tied teams are tied for post-season play. The multi-team divisional tie was one of the largest sources of confusion for me when I was learning the tiebreak rules - I therefore believe it deserves its own paragraph.

(7) "Breaking a tie for 2 wild-card spots" is also unnecesary.
- I agree, but I still like that it has its own paragraph - for emphasis sake.

(8) "Breaking a tie for 2 wild-card spots" is a bad header because the same process can be used for determining the 7th through 16th seeds.
- I disagree. In general, this would not be used to break a tie among teams not tied for the playoffs. The draft order tiebreaking procedure would be used which uses strength of schedule above all other tiebreakers. If the division and/or conference tieberakers are used (if strength of schedule is tied), then there is a separate paragraph for that in the "draft order tiebreakering procedure."

- Although from a mathematical perspective, your wording is sufficient, I don't believe it is fan friendly. That is why I prefer 3 separate bullet points. From a grammatical perspective, I believe your wording is wrong - which is why I've offered a couple of alternate wordings (previous post).

(10) the word "pair" is too specific to the current 4 division alignment.
- agreed. I can change the word "pair" to "subgroup". Although, personally, I don't mind being specific to the division alignment or scheduling formula because I I know I would update the wording if the alignment or scheduling formula ever changed.

(11) Sweep and swept is common knowledge.
- If you are talking about a broom and a floor, then yes it is common knowledge. Otherwise, I'm not so certain that it is.

Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 31, 2012 1:13 am

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Jerry, this was my 3rd of 7 suggestions made on Jan 17th at 3:20am (Eastern Time Zone). You may have diliberately chosen to ignore it, but in case it was overlooked:

(3)
1. Head-to-head sweep (apply if a group of one or more clubs has each defeated each of the remaining group of clubs)
I cannot get past "group of one".  Worse than that, grammatically, is "each of the remaining group of clubs".
1. Head-to-head sweep. A team is swept if it has lost to each of the other teams. A subgroup of teams is swept if each team within the subgroup has lost to each team outside of the subgroup.
If you don't like my revision, I think you could get away with yours minus the word "group" in both instances.
1. Head-to-head sweep (apply if one or more clubs has each defeated each of the remaining clubs).

I like using the "swept" perspective because it is obvious to me that "swept" teams are eliminated, and elimination is always the result of a sweep. However, If you are using the "sweep" perspective, it may or may not be the case that sweeping teams are declared the winners. In fact, it would only be the case if the sweeping group consisted of exactly one team.

Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 30, 2012 11:20 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Jerry,

I appreciate the feedback. I think they are all valid points that you bring up. Give me a few days to think about how to address them.

As for determining the highest ranking or lowest ranking team first (for draft order purposes)...I'm not 100% sure which is the case. The reason I'm not sure is that there have never been 3 or more teams all from the same conference tied in "playoff segment", overall record, and strength of schedule.

When two teams are tied, you award the better draft position to the team with the "worst" strength of schedule...or "worst" division record, whichever tiebreaker it may be (which is why I avoid using the word "best" in my tiebreaking steps). When a coin is flipped, the winner of the flip gets the best draft position, not the best ranking. From a logic standpoint, it seems to make more sense to me to start with the best draft position - determine that first - then work your way down to the worst draft position.

So it seems to me, that for determining draft position, if ever 3 teams were tied, then the highest (or best) draft position should be determined first (and perhaps would be determined first).  In order to do that, and still use the division or conference tiebreakers, you would have to select the lowest ranking team from each division before using the conference tiebreakers. Then, separately, you must decide if you determine the rankings within a division beginning with the lowest ranking team or beginning with the highest ranking team.

Unless...is the goal is to rank all 32 teams first, then assign draft positions in the reverse order of the rankings? If that is the case, then first I would determine the highest ranking team, then proceed down to the lowest ranking team.

Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

I haven't heard from Joe since he said he would take a look at my H2H sweep presentation.

Brett, Tiebreaking is not in the dictionary but Tiebreaker is.  Perhaps we should be using "Tie-breaking"

Brett, I still have problems with your use of the word "interdivision".  Can you please change it to "Conference Tiebreaker".   I would consider posting your unofficial fan version on playoffrace.com for next season if make you this change as I believe the insistence to use this term is more of a confusing turn off than it's worth even if it is technically correct from a terminology standpoint.  At the very least you need a better definition of interdivision.  Your definition is: "tiebreakers used to break ties between teams in different divisions".  Imagine NYG, GB, DAL in a 3 way tie.  On one hand NYG and GB are from different divisions but on the other hand NYG and DAL are from the same division so since all teams are not from different divisions some might be confused as to what to do.  Also the use of the word "between" implies it is to be used when only two teams are involved.  It excludes the possibility of three or four teams.  I think your definition would read more accurately if it was: "to break ties among teams from multiple divisions"

I still like my paragraph approach over your 3 step approach of explaining how to use the procedure.  Your version has inconsistencies and leaves out some crucial details.  For instance, you say, "If a winner cannot be determined, all teams not tied for the best record are eliminated."  Well not all steps are based on record, so what about those steps that are not record based.  Would we not eliminate teams at those steps because they are not based on record.  I think the following is more appropriate.  At each step, eliminate all clubs that are not determined to the best or tied for best at that step.

I like Coin Flip.

Also when a tiebreaker reverts to H2H do we start over with any of the previously eliminated teams or does the tiebreaker continue with only the non-eliminated teams.  I know what the correct answer to this is, but a newcomber might not.  Your version does not explicitly convey this.

For those who've expressed a fondness for a list of instructions versus a paragrapgh, if I was going to convert my paragraph of instructions into a list of instructions, mine would look something like this.

Breaking Ties For Post-Season Play
Use the applicable steps below to break ties among two or more clubs when determining division ranking, wild-card participants, or the seeding of division champions.

• At each step, eliminate all clubs that are determined to not be the best nor tied for the best at that step.
• If multiple clubs remain tied after other(s) have been eliminated, tiebreaker reverts to step 1 with the remaining non-eliminated clubs.
• When a single club remains after other(s) have been eliminated, the surviving club is declared winner of this application of the tie-breaking process.
• If necessary, repeat this process with only the eliminated clubs from the previous application of the procedure to determine the next-place winner.

"Breaking a Multi-Team Divisional Tie:
Only one team is ranked within its division per application of the procedure; after the highest ranking team is determined from a group of tied teams, the procedure is applied a second time, with the remaining unranked teams, to determine the next highest ranking team. This continues until each team is ranked within its division: a necessity, if not for playoff purposes, then for scheduling purposes."

This whole chunk of wording is already concluded by adhering to the rules of the procedure which can be gleaned through my paragraph approach or the bulleted list above.

"Breaking a Tie for 2 Wild-Card Spots:
Only one wild-card team is determined per application of the procedure; after the first wild-card team is determined, the procedure is applied a second time with the highest ranking, non-division winning, and non-wild-card winning team from each division. If all remaining tied teams are from the same division, then the highest ranking of those teams is the second wild-card team."

Once again this is repeat information that can be easily understood by following the rules of the procedure.  I don't see anyway in which a reader could conlcude otherwise by following the rules of the procedure albeit paragraph or bulleted list.  Anyways it's a bad header since the conference tiebreakers can be used for determining the 7th through 16th seeds as well for which the same concept is applied over and over again until all ties are broken.

There is some serious brevity to be gained by at the very least consolidating the message in both of those paragraphs.  Afterall essentially the main point you are trying to convey is that you exclude previous winners of the procedure.  IMHO this is already conveyed quite well be instructing readers to repeat this process with only the eliminated clubs from the previous application of the procedure to determine the next-place winner.

a)  A team "sweeps" (and is the winner) if it has a head-to-head win against each of the other tied teams.
b)  A team is "swept" (and is eliminated) if it has a head-to-head loss against each of the other tied teams.
c)  A pair of teams is swept (and each team in the pair is eliminated) if each has a head-to-head loss against each team outside of the swept pair. [item (c) only if deemed to be part of the current or desired application of sweeps]"

This whole thing can be replaced with

### Head-to-head sweep (apply if a group of one or more clubs has each defeated each of the remaining group of clubs)

I challenge anyone to demonstrate potential confusion that could be derived from this definition or to demonstrate illegitamcy of the defnition.
I don't like use of the word "pair" because it is too specific to the current scheduling process, and technically when a triplet of teams has each defeated a singlet we also apply H2H sweep.  So it seems it bit discriminatory and redundant to single out the use of the word "pair".  Other phrases can work too and sustain the essence of when to apply, but end up sounding more awkaward and wordy, such as:
"(apply, if the tied teams can be split into two groups such that each of the teams in group 1 has a better H2H record against each of the teams in group 2)"  This definition is perfectly correct but can be safely reduced to the bold defintion I've listed above.

I originally was going to replace the word "defeated" with the word "swept", because it is more technically accurate.  You see, our definitions of H2H sweep are contextually dependent on the current scheduling process.   Use of the word defeated survives only by virtue of the situtations that head-to-head sweeps are applied.  Technically a sweep is having defeated and not tied nor lost to the others.  We both can agree this underlined piece is not needed by virtue of the current scheduling process.  If ever it were possible for a team to play a non-division team twice in the regular season, the definitions we use would not survive.  In general I think it is helpful to explain when to use H2H-sweep, but I think defining the what it means to sweep and what it means to be swept is common knowledge that can be gained from the dictionary.

Question for Brett, Why do you repeatedly ask ("or should it be lowest") in the draft order tiebreaking steps.  Do you not know the correct way or are you asking us as a proposition for change.  So let me just ask the question.  What is the correct practice for breaking ties for the draft order.  I know I should probably be asking this question to elias?

I've got other gripes with your version, but frankly I'm out of breath right now.  Perhaps I'll get around to it.

Also I am still looking for a way to consicely include the draft order process into my procedure.  In the end it might simply be better to have seperate procedures for breaking ties for the post season and draft order.  Still contemplating that.

-Cheers
-Jerry

Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 26, 2012 7:47 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Vito - great work. I've made a suggestion via email.

### re: Compensatory Picks

Here is a document on compensatory picks wirtten by the NFL Public Relations department and made public by USA TODAY.

This document includes a list of most of the unrestricted free agents that qualified as compensatory. Compensatory free agents did not make the list if neither the team they left nor the team they signed was awarded a compensatory pick outside of the hypothetical 8th round.

This document also answered a few of my questions (#3, #5, #7), and partially answered a few more (#1, #4, #6).

1a)  I thought I read that, beginning in 2010, players needed 6 years of service time, instead of 4, to qualify as an unrestricted free agent. Although, I also read that part of the new collective bargaining agreement beginning in 2011, was that players needed only 4 years of service time to qualify as an unrestricted free agent. What is the accurate timeline for this?

2)  If, when assigning the first set of compensatory picks (to teams with a net loss in compensatory free agents), the total ever exceeded 32, would the NFL Management Council use their formula to reduce the set down to 32? Or would this be an exception to the rule of having exactly 32 picks?

4a)  When teams with a net loss of zero free agents are assigned a single compensatory pick (based on a net loss in collective point values): If 6 picks are available but 7 teams fall in this category, would the 6 teams with the largest collective point differential get a pick? OR... if there was a sizeable gap separating the bottom 3 point differentials from the top 4 point differentials, would only the top 4 (of the 7) in this category receive a compensatory pick?

4b)  The document says, "Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by these clubs [Oakland, Seattle, and New Orleans] were ranked higher than the ones they signed (by a specified point differential based upon salary and performance)."  Was this really true for this season, or was the text containing, "specified point differential", a carry over from a previous year in which a cutoff was necessary? In other words, if enough picks are available, why wouldn't all teams with "compensatory free agents lost ranking higher than the ones signed" be awarded a compensatory pick?

[ 5)  was wrong regarding the Raiders, Seahawks, and Saints! ]

6a)  Is there a way to find a complete list of unrestricted free agents that qualified as "compensatory"? The document from the NFL (via USA TODAY) does not include a complete list.

8)  Do the formula results determine the order within a round, or merely assign a round to each pick? If the latter, what determines the order within a round?

Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:27 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Pardon me, here's a link to the doc:

Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:21 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

I have created a document that analyzes NFL tie combinations, and how they affect the application of the tiebreak procedure.  So if you ever wondered what the odds are of a 3-team wild card tiebreak being able to use common games, this will provide an answer.  It is a good baseline to determine the effects on the tiebreaker process of moving to a 17- or 18- game schedule.

0MTMwLTkyMzEtN2ZiYThjMjM3MTk2

Please check it out, if you have feedback or questions, email the address at the top of the document (I suppose you could post it here, too).

Since I sort of brought it up, let me ask, was all the talk of an 18-game schedule ended by the new CBA?  Is that completely or temporarily off the table?  Personally, I think 16 games is plenty, but adding 2 conference games gives the opportunity for more comparisons in the tiebreak procedure.

Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 5:49 pm

## NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Joe! Where ya been? I write today because I feel especially good right now about my version of the procedure. I've been hard at work revising the language almost daily.  -Please, stop by my site and comment direcly on my document! (highlight text with the cursor, right click, then "comment").

I believe my document answers, very clearly, every question ever asked! I also think it's organized so well that everything you want to know is very easily found. I've self titled it, the "unofficial fan version", but my goal is for it to become the "official fan version". If the Competition Committee decides to adopt any part of the language, then that would just be icing on the cake.

(Anyone is free to comment as they please.)

Also, Joe. I've been working hard on a list of steps for assigning the 32 compensatory draft picks. I'd rather not make assumptions, so I'm wondering: do you know the answer to any of these questions? Even if you only answer one of them, it would be much appreciated. Thanks!

1)  Is there still a limit of 4 per team? With unrestricted free agents now needing 6 years of service time (instead of 4), it seems like there is no longer a need to limit the number of compensatory picks per team.

2)  If, when assigning the first set of compensatory picks (to teams with a net loss in compensatory free agents), the total ever exceeded 32 (although now it seems like it never could), would the NFL Management Council use their formula to reduce the set down to 32? Or would this be an exception to the rule of having exactly 32 picks?

3)  Since the formula results are released in late March at the NFL annual meeting, may I assume they are based on the previous year's free agent signings, unaffected by the new season's signings prior to the meeting? (The formula results could be based on all free agent signings between meetings (from late March one year to late March the next year).

4)  When teams with a net loss of zero free agents are assigned a single compensatory pick (based on a net loss in collective point values), is this an "all or none" deal?  For example, if 6 picks are available but 7 teams fall in this category, would none of these teams get a pick, or would the 6 teams with the largest collective point differential get picks? OR...if say if there was a sizeable gap separating the bottom 3 point differentials, would only the top 4 (of the 7) in this category receive a compensatory pick?

5)  Can you confirm that the Raiders, Seahwaks, and Saints actually did have a net gain in compensatory free agents between the 2010 and 2011 seasons? According to , these teams had a net gain in compensatory free agents, but still received a compensatory pick due to a net loss in the collective point values of the these free agents. Given that I never heard of this before, and given that every year there are a few picks assigned according to a hypothetical 8th round order, I'm guessing it was an "all or none" deal? (if true)

6)  Is there a way to find a list of unrestricted free agents that qualified as "compensatory"? (Of course, after the free agent period is over.) Am I correct that not all of them qualify?

7)  Is there a restriction placed on Super Bowl teams, Conference Championship teams, Wild-Card Round winners, or all playoff teams?

8)  Do the formula results determine the order within a round, or merely assign a round to each pick? If the latter, what determines the order within a round?

Thanks!

Brett

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com