A coin toss precedes every American football game. Captains from each side gather in the center of the field, where the referee holds a coin. The coin toss in the NFL is limited to three captains from each team. In other leagues, such as the AFL and NFC, there is no limit on the number of captains that can be chosen.
The captain from each team gets to decide who will receive the ball first. If they are unable to make a decision, then a coin toss is held by the referee. The team that wins the toss may choose to defer or accept the ball. If they defers, the opponent receives the ball and starts at the 35-yard line. If they accepts the ball, both teams get to use the same 20-yard line as their offense.
In addition to being a vital part of the opening sequence of each game, the coin toss also determines which team gets to kick off, and thus, who has the advantage of starting the game with possession of the ball.
There are two ways to win the coin toss: calling heads or calling tails. If you call heads, you are saying that you want the ball first. If you call tails, you are saying that you don't want the ball first.
However, just one player from the visiting side must shout heads or tails before the referee tosses the coin into the air (hence the name "coin toss"). The captain can change his or her mind at any time before the toss begins and let another player do it instead.
In college football, all decisions regarding ball possession are made by the referees prior to the start of the game. Captains are allowed to speak with them before the ball is tossed, but they cannot veto a decision that has been made. If there is any confusion over who will get the ball, then the refs will toss a coin to determine who will get it first. This process is called "calling the toss" or simply "tossing the coin".
In both college and professional football, if the home team wins the toss, they will decide whether to receive the ball first or not. If they choose not to receive, then the visitors will receive it. In college football, if the home team receives the ball, they can defer it to the second half, while in the NFL, this option does not exist. Instead, the home team must use every opportunity to put themselves in a better position to win or lose the game.
The captain of the visiting team, or the captain appointed by the referee if there is no home team, must call "heads" or "tails" prior to the referee's throw. Unless the toss winner defers his decision until the second half, he must pick one of two privileges, with the loser receiving the other.
Captains from each side gather in the center of the field, where the referee holds a coin. The coin toss in the NFL is limited to three captains from each team. Four players may participate in collegiate football. However, just one member of the visiting team calls heads...
The NFL rules are as follows: Not more than three minutes before the first-half kickoff, the referee shall throw a coin near the middle of the field in the presence of both teams' captains (a limit of six per team, active, inactive, or honorary). The captain who objects to the outcome of the toss may decline to have his team take the field during the first half. If the result is unclear, or if neither team declines the toss, the referee shall do so at the beginning of the second half.
The coin must be tossed while it is still light out. It can be done on the field with no penalty, or in the locker room with each team receiving two chances to refuse the toss. If the coin lands heads up, the team that lost the toss will receive it at its own 25-yard line; if tails up, they'll get it at their 20.
The referee throws the coin into the middle of the field and says, "Heads or tails?" When he gets no response, he knows how they want to be assigned for the first half and will call out either "heads" or "tails."
He then walks about 15 yards down the field and waits until the start of the half to see who goes next.
The current NFL regulation requires both team captains to meet three minutes before kickoff at the 50-yard line to select which team will take possession of the ball initially. As the referee tosses the coin into the air, the away team captain calls heads or tails. The toss winner has the choice of kicking or receiving. If they choose to receive, the opponent can defer by saying "receiver" and then picking a player who does not have to leave the field. If they want to kick, they say "kicker" and one of them must leave the field for the opportunity to put more distance between their opponents and themselves.
In case of a tie, there will be no winner chosen and both teams will receive a free kick from midfield. This procedure ensures that the game starts with a head start for one of the teams. A team that wins the toss gets an advantage because it can decide what play type it wants to run (passing vs. rushing), where it wants to go with the ball (short yardage vs. long yardage), and who should get the first down/touchdown (inside the opponent's 30-yard line). The other team cannot use any of its advantages in any way because it must begin the game with the defense in place.
There are two ways to win the coin toss: getting called up by your coach or being selected by your fellow players.