# The coin toss in football: does it make any difference?

I love statistics, but my football knowledge is poor. I consider a football game to be two independent 30-minute periods. One team (may) have a slight advantage in the first half, but the other team has that same advantage in the second half. The second half starts independent of whatever happened in the the first half. so:
(A) If I win the coin toss, is there any advantage to deferring to the 2nd half?
(B) When was the “defer” option initiated?
© Ignoring “defer”, how frequently does the chooser choose something other than “Receive”?
(D) Statistically, by how many points is the advantage to the “receiver” in each half?

If the weather forecast says the wind is going to changed during the course of the game, you might have a distance advantage in throwing or kicking with the wind during one part of the game.

Your team may be more tired during the second half of the game. Or they may become more experienced with the opposition’s strategies by the second half of the game.

The sun can also be a factor in open stadiums.

Moderator Action

Let’s kick this off over to the football (and other games) forum.

Moving thread from General Questions to The Game Room.

You may find this interesting:

The Strategy and Consequences of the N.F.L. Coin Toss
http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/the-strategy-and-consequences-of-the-n-f-l-coin-toss/?_r=0

There are some statistics given which address the C and D parts of the OP, and there’s a lot of other info as well.

Defer is only a few years old. What’s interesting is that various football video games always got the coin toss wrong. If the player chose to kick, the player would get the second-half kickoff. However, until the defer option was added, that was actually getting the rules wrong. What would have happened in a real game would be that you chose to kick and then, in the second half, the opponent would then get to choose whether to kick or receive. Of course, no one would choose to kick if they could receive a second time. By letting a team defer their choice, that makes the other team decide right away. Team B will obviously decide to receive and then Team A will obviously decide to receive in the second half.

(A) Only in that it increases the chance, albeit slightly, that you will have one more possession than your opponents - assuming, of course, that they don’t start the second half with a successful onside kick.

(B) It started in college in 1983, and was added to high schools soon after. The NFL adopted it in 2008.

That’s not quite how it worked. The winner of the coin toss could choose either (a) which team kicked off, or (b) what direction each team would go in the first quarter. The choices would be switched for the second half, so instead of choosing to kick, a team would choose which side of the field to defend, knowing that they would get the choice of which team kicked off to start the second half.
This is no longer the case with “defer”; the team that did not get the first choice in the first half gets the first choice of either who kicks off or direction regardless of the choice made for the first half.

In the second half, you also have the advantage of knowing the score, which tells you how many risks you need to take in that half. If you’re ahead by a significant margin, then you should take few risks, and if you’re behind by a significant margin, you should take many.

What I don’t get is why the crowd cheers when their team wins the coin flip. It makes no difference whatsoever (at least at the start of the game; the coin flip for overtime is another matter).

The funny thing is, the deferral option (almost always chosen) is an assertion that you were better off losing the pre-deferral coin toss. So all those people cheering the win before 1983 in college and 2008 in the NFL were just plain wrong!

The other factor that has to be considered is how my team is built. If my team strength is Defense and my Offense is weaker, I may be better off kicking off, letting my D stuff them deep and giving my O a short field to score from rather than to take the ball and have to move 70-90 yards to score.

Conversely, if they have weak Offense, do I kick off and make them work up the field or give me a short field to work with?

Well hey at least your team won something regardless of how poorly they end up doing in the actual game. May as well give it a cheer!