Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Toin Coss Debate

Many people think that a team in football "elects to kickoff." While this is, in practice, correct, it is not technically accurate. When a team wins the toss at the beginning of the game, it is given the choice of deferring its decision, or making it now. But what is the decision? The decision is whether to choose to receive or kickoff, or to decide which goal to defend.

So, if Team A decides not to defer, it can elect to receive (which 100% of teams do - there really is no advantage to kicking off), or it can choose to defend a certain goal. When it chooses to defend a certain goal, the other team is given the option of whether it wants to receive or kickoff. No team ever chooses the option of kicking off (makes no sense to do so). However, the scenario just described will be called on TV, "Team A elected to kick off," even though Team A really felt the goal defense was the more important choice to make. The reason commentators will say, "Team A elected to kick off," is because, as mentioned previously, no team would kick off when its only option is to kick off or receive.

When will a team decide to choose a goal to defend rather than choose whether to receive or kickoff? The only time I have seen it happen is at Giants Stadium. At the beginning of the second half, the Giants (or the Jets) would often want to have the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter. Therefore, they will choose to defend the goal that the wind was blowing toward to start the third quarter. The other team, naturally, left with the choice of whether to receive or kickoff, will receive. So, in effect, the Giants/Jets were said to have elected to kick off.

This came to light again recently in the Jet Miami game last Sunday night. I noticed when the Jets kicked off after scoring their first touchdown that the kick was received at about the 15. Then the Dolphins punted and the kick went really far. Wind must have been a factor. I asked Joe, who was watching with me, whether the Jets would take the wind in the fourth quarter. As it turned out, either consciously or not, the Jets wound up with the wind in the fourth quarter.

These blogs are supposed to be about the little nuances of a game - how little things that average fans would never notice can influence a game. Football is a game of elements. Watching how teams manage the conditions, especially wind, is just another reason why we watch.