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Report: NFL May Simplify Coin Toss Rules After Confusion in Rams vs. Cowboys

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: The Los Angeles Rams anf the Dallas Cowboys participate in the coin toss before the game at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Changes could be coming to the coin toss before NFL games.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, "The NFL could consider simplifying the rules of what players have to say for the 2020 season, according to sources. The discussion is expected to center around whether there is a way to simplify the language regarding the opening coin toss."

Schefter's report follows the league intervening and granting the Dallas Cowboys the ball to start the second half of their game last Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. There was some confusion when Dak Prescott chose to defer the choice to the second half after first saying the Cowboys would kick, though officials granted the deferral when the NFL stepped in. 

Had the NFL not intervened, the Rams would have gotten the ball to start both the first and second halves. Teams that win the coin toss generally either choose to receive the ball in the first half or defer the decision to the second half. Deferring allows them to choose which side of the field they'd prefer to defend after the opposing team chooses to receive and also gives them the choice to receive the ball in the second half.

But when referee Walt Anderson believed the Cowboys chose to kick off in the first half, that gave the Rams the choice for the second half, which they obviously would have used to receive the ball. Prescott said "defense" and "kicking it that way" before saying "We defer to the second half," causing the confusion.

"If you look at what happened, you see that the Cowboys actually say three different things, and then we hear at the end where they say 'defer,'" NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said after the game, per Patrik Walker of CBS Sports. "So we go ahead and look at it. We pulled up the audio. We knew that I was going to have a conversation with Walt Anderson at halftime to make it right."

Will Brinson @WillBrinson

Erin Andrews said Walt Anderson went back and listened and "they did determine that the word defer was said by Dak Prescott" so they gave Dallas the ball. But Sean McVay didn't find out until he came out of the until to start the second half.

While the NFL corrected the error, Schefter noted that "the fact that there even was a question led some last week to wonder why the NFL doesn't simplify the language in order to avoid potential controversies."

While it's a fair point, it's also worth noting that it's an error rarely made by teams or officials. As ESPN's Ed Werder noted, the Cowboys were in danger of becoming the "first team since 2004 to kickoff to start both the game and the second half."

It was also a lesson to players who win the toss—keep it simple with either a "defer" or "receive." Anything more and you might just have a controversy on your hands.