Well, it's the Monday after the NFL's conference championship Sunday, and that means the assignment I dread most of the year has arrived: writing about the Super Bowl coin toss. Don't get me wrong, it's not a tough gig, it's just often tough to come up with a unique angle each season.
Thankfully, the NFL has helped me out by naming Clete Blakeman as the referee for Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Blakeman had a major goof this season in handling the coin toss before the overtime of the Green Bay-Arizona NFC divisional-round game in Glendale. The Packers were the visitors, so they called the overtime coin toss, just as the visitors get to call the pre-game coin toss. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers called tails, but the coin came up heads. One problem: the coin never actually flipped. So the Packers rightly complained.
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"He had it on heads, he was showing heads, so I called tails, and it didn't flip," Rodgers said. "He just tossed it up in the air and it did not turn over at all and it landed on the ground. So we obviously thought that was not right."
Blakeman quickly tossed the coin again -- not asking Rodgers if he wanted to change his call -- and it did flip this time, but Green Bay lost again. Rodgers, who also claimed he might have changed his call, said he thought Blakeman went with the first flip result because "I think he was trying to avoid the embarrassment of what just happened and flip it quickly.''
That proved very important because the Cardinals scored a touchdown on that opening possession, which ended the game and led for some to argue for a change in OT rules where each team at least gets to touch the ball once. That's a story for another day.
"I have not seen this before in any level of football where the coin didn't actually flip," NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said afterward. "And although the rulebook doesn't specifically state that it must rotate, I think common sense would dictate that the coin has to flip in order to have a coin toss. I thought Clete did the best job he could with what he had and common sense would dictate that he would flip it again."
I'm assuming Blakeman will make sure the coin flips plenty this time; there has yet to be Super Bowl overtime. It's his first time as the referee in the Super Bowl -- Blandino makes that call based on how each official grades out over the season. There actually was a mistake during last year's Super Bowl between the Patriots and Seahawks. New England was the visitor and called heads. It came up tails, so the Seahawks won. They opted to defer as just about every team does these days. The winner of the coin toss obviously gets to decide on possession. But the loser is supposed to be able to pick which direction it wants to kick. However, referee Bill Vinovich allowed Seattle to pick the direction where it wanted to kick. Nothing ever came of that mistake, and it probably doesn't matter in a dome like last season. Of course, Levi's Stadium is an open-air venue, so direction could have some relevance.
According to the MMQB.com, more than eight out of every 10 teams that won the opening coin toss in the 2015 regular season decided to defer on average. There were two weeks in which no teams that won the opening toss took the ball. Just seven years ago, it was less than one out of every 10 coaches who deferred in an average week. The option to defer was introduced in 2008, and deferrals only happened 7.8 percent of the time then. Now coaches like to defer to potentially give their offenses back-to-back possessions: end of first half and start of second. Obviously that's the only time in a game an offense could have back-to-back immediate possessions.
The Bovada props for the coin toss are the same as always.
*-Heads & tails each -105
*-Carolina & Denver each -105 to win it; Panthers will call as the visitor.
*-Yes & no each -115 that the team that wins the toss wins the game.
*-Yes & no each -115 that the Panthers are correct on the coin toss.
Last year was the second straight time that tails has won, and it now has a 25-24 lead over heads. Heads had won the previous five straight. The NFC has won 16 of the past 18 coin tosses. Teams winning the toss have gone on to win 24 of 49 Super Bowls. They had won two straight before Seattle blew last year's Super Bowl with that ill-fated passing play in the final minute at the New England goal line.
This is the second Super Bowl in the San Francisco Bay area. SB XIX was held at Stanford Stadium on Jan. 20, 1985. The 49ers beat the Dolphins 38-16 in Miami QB Dan Marino's only Super Bowl appearance. President Ronald Reagan tossed the coin via satellite. It came up tails and the 49ers won the toss.
Of course, Denver was in the Super Bowl two years ago. Seattle won that toss and deferred. And on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning wasn't ready for the snap in a shotgun formation and it ended up being a safety. The Seahawks would never trail on the way to a 43-8 rout.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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