Connect with us

Outside the Stripes

NFL quietly passes ‘Hot Potato’ rule for coin toss

Bill Vinovich conducts the coin toss at the beginning of the game (Baltimore Ravens photo)

The NFL has circumvented the typical rule-revision process and is making a rule change that will affect the opening coin toss, according to a league source.

“We made the point-after-touchdown try a more exciting play last year,” the source said. “We looked at other parts of the game, and realized that the coin toss was really lacking any kind of excitement.”

The new rule is called the “double defer” rule, which will — well, I’ll let our source explain:

What the ‘Double Defer’ will do is, when a team has won the coin toss, they may elect to defer the choice to the second half, as usual. The other team now has the option to defer back to the team that won the coin toss.

This can go back and forth, so what we will do is, the back judge will wind the 25-second clock. When it hits zero, whichever team has been deferred to at that point will be assessed a 5-yard delay of game penalty, and will have to kickoff for both halves.

It will make for some interesting strategy at the coin toss as to how to get the kickoff for both halves. But, there is some risk it will backfire, and the team gets assessed a penalty instead. We really made this a priority for the 2016 season, rather than make a change to a low-priority rule, like the process of the catch. 

Asked about whether this sounded like a children’s game of Hot Potato, the source explained this is not the preferred term. “Obviously, we don’t want the media and the fans calling it the Hot Potato rule, because it sounds kind of juvenile. Next thing, they will be joking about replacing the coin toss with Duck Duck Goose or Red Rover. So, we called it the Double Defer rule for that reason. And, when you post this, please don’t put ‘Hot Potato’ in the headline.”

The league source was not authorized to publicly disclose the rule change, fearing termination. NFL spokesman John Williamson declined to address the rule, saying, “We have no comment at this time. And, didn’t I just speak with you off the record five minutes ago on this?”

Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck … .

This post was originally published April 1, 2016.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

Continue Reading