Football Coin Toss

How does the coin toss work in football? What are the coin toss options? Let's learn about the football coin toss and the initial setup of a game.

Football Coin Toss

The coin toss is used to determine the setup of a football game. It determines:

  • Who starts with the ball
  • What direction teams go to score
  • Which end zone teams get to defend

When Does The Coin Toss Happen In Football?

The coin toss will happen:

  • At the start of a football game
  • At the start of overtime

REMEMBER: Overtime only happens when the score is tied at the end of regulation.

Coin Toss Procedure

Three minutes prior to kickoff, captains from both teams meet at the 50 yard line of the field for the coin toss.

The team captain of the away team chooses either heads or tails before the referee tosses the coin into the air.

The team that wins the coin toss is called the winning team. The team that loses the coin toss is called the losing team.

The winning team gets their first choice of the following coin toss options. The losing team gets to choose from the remaining options and also gets their first choice from the same options at the start of the second half.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The team that wins the coin toss gets their first choice of the coin toss options. The losing team gets their first choice at the start of the second half.

NFL Overtime Coin Toss Options (Regulation)

The winning team gets their first choice from the following coin toss options:

  1. To kick or to receive the opening kickoff
  2. Which goal to defend (also known as choosing wind)
  3. Defer choice to the start of the second half

Football Choosing Wind

Coin Toss Kick or Receive

This coin toss option determines who gets possession of the ball first. If a team chooses to kick, they will not start with the ball. If a team chooses to receive, they will start with the ball.

Coin Toss Goal

This coin toss option determines which end zone a team defends and which direction they have to go to score points.

Football Choosing Wind

PRO TIP: Remember, teams alternate which end zone they protect at the end of the first quarter and third quarters anyway.

Coin Toss Defer

This coin toss option allows the winning team of the coin toss to get their first choice of the coin toss options at the start of the second half. By choosing to defer, a team will wait to make their decision until the start of the second half.

REMEMBER: The coin toss option to defer does not exist at the start of the second half.

NFL Overtime Coin Toss Strategy

So which coin toss option should a team pick? The most common coin toss option for the winning team is to defer. A team may choose this option if they want to gather more intelligence around the opposing team or to better understand how they play, so they can make a better-informed decision in the second half.

Overtime Coin Toss Options

If the score is tied at the end of regulation, overtime will determine the winner. At the start of overtime, a second coin toss will take place.

REMEMBER: The rules of overtime and the coin toss options are slightly different for high school football, college football, and the NFL.

NFL Overtime Coin Toss Options

The NFL coin toss options are the following:

  1. To kick or to receive the opening kickoff
  2. Which goal to defend (also known as choosing wind)
  3. Defer choice to the start of the 2nd half of overtime

College Football Overtime Coin Toss Options

The college football coin toss options are the following:

  1. Offense or defense
  2. Which end of the field for both possessions

We'll learn more about overtime in football overtime.

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