So… if your team wins the opening coin toss does that mean it has a better chance to win the game?  That’s what we’ll try to find out in this blog entry.  (All stats courtesy of pfref.com.)

 

The data available for this goes back to the 1999 season.  Including both regular season and post season games the opening coin toss winner has a record of 2401-2373-7 (.503).  But I can remember teams used to *always* take the ball when they won the coin toss.  Here lately though teams have started deferring to the 2nd half more often (or at least that’s the way it seems to me).  These selective deferrals might be worthwhile if your team has a significant edge in one of the matchups (your offense against their defense or your defense against their offense).  You might want to put the better matchup on the field for the first series to try to “set the tone” for the rest of the game.  Other factors could also come into play, such as where teams might also want the wind at their backs in the 4th quarter, for example.

If we just include data from 1999-2008, the teams that won the coin toss had a combined record (post season + regular season) of 1313-1330-2 (.497).  If we go from 2009-2016, again regular + post season combined) we get a record of 1088-1043-5 (.511) for the opening coin toss winners.  Could it be cleverly using selective deferrals to the 2nd half in the more recent seasons be making the difference?  Maybe, but my hunch is this is just regression to the mean.

In the final analysis, I don’t think it really matters much.  You either get the ball to start the 1st half or you get the ball to start the 2nd half and it doesn’t really matter which you get.  The overall winning percentage based on the most complete data available suggests the coin toss winners only prevail 50.3% of the time.

Advertisements