If you have ever watched a football game you have likely noticed the coin toss which takes place to start the game.
In each game, the referee will flip a coin to determine which team is going to start with the football.
The away team will be the ones to choose which side of the coin they want for the toss. This decision will be made by one of the captains that have come out for the coin toss.
The referee will clearly identify which side of his coin is heads and which is tails. The referee will then ask the away team captain to “call it in the air”. This means the captain must call heads or tails before the coin is caught or hits the ground.
The referee will then look at the coin and declare which team won the toss.
But when a team wins a coin toss they are not automatically getting the ball but rather getting the choice of several options.
What Happens When You Win A Coin Toss In Football?
It is a common misconception that when a coin toss is won the team will simply start with the ball. This is usually what a team will decide to do when they win a coin toss but there are actually several options they can choose from.
Choosing A Direction
Teams may choose a direction they want to play towards after winning the coin toss. If you decide to choose a direction that means you will forfeit your right to decide who gets the ball.
Choosing a direction to play towards is often dependent on weather. Certain stadiums will have obstacles such as wind or sunlight that may make it more difficult on an offense.
Teams may choose a specific direction to play towards due to these obstacles. This is especially relevant in overtime because teams will only player in one direction throughout overtime.
Teams usually switch directions after each quarter but since overtime is only a single quarter the direction is going to be a bigger factor.
Choosing The Ball
Choosing the ball is the most common option when it comes to winning a coin toss. With this decision, you are securing that you will get the first possession of the football game.
This is almost always the choice when it comes to winning a coin toss in overtime. This is because the first team to score a touchdown in overtime automatically wins the game.
This makes getting the first possession a huge advantage when going to overtime.
Choosing To Differ
The final option that is available when a team wins a coin toss is to differ. Differing is essentially a way of saying that you will not choose any option and instead will choose one of these options to start the second half.
Differing the coin toss means you are giving the opposing team the option to choose as if they won the coin toss.
Meaning they will likely choose to get the ball to start the game and your team will be able to get the ball to start the second half. Choosing to defer is a fairly common choice when it comes to coin tosses in the NFL.
In short, if you choose to differ you are differing your choice until the second half instead of making the choice to kickoff or receive to start the game.
Choosing To Kick
One of the other options a team may choose when winning the coin toss is to kick the ball. This simply means to start the game the team that won the toss will kick off to their opponent.
This is a very rare option because if you choose to kick to start a game you are effectively giving up a possession. Choosing to kick does not mean you get to start with the ball in the second half.
In most cases choosing to kick is done by accident when a team is actually trying to defer but instead choose to use their coin toss selection on kicking off the ball.
The only reason teams will choose to kick on purpose would occur in overtime, especially in bad weather.
Say for example if there is inclement weather making it very hard to move the ball. In this situation, a team may want their opponent to start with the ball. If the defense is able to get a quick stop this should give the offense great field position and a chance to win the game.