It was the most disputed coin toss since Phil Luckett and Jerome Bettis on Thanksgiving Day in 1998. That’s because it was the only disputed coin toss since Luckett told Bettis he called heads when Bettis claimed he called tails.
Actually, Puckett claimed Bettis called “heads-tails,” a no-lose proposition that covers any outcome. Including when the coin doesn’t flip.
That’s precisely what occurred on Saturday night in Arizona, as the Packers and Cardinals got together for a rematch of a 2009 wild-card classic that went to overtime after 90 combined regular-season points. Referee Clete Blakeman, who like most humans has opposable thumbs, didn’t manage to get enough oomph under the first try, making the oversized coin behave more like a Frisbee, landing on heads because it never turned over.
The fact that the Cardinals won both the non-flip and the flip (since the Packers called tails) should have made it a no-harm, no-foul curiosity. But it’s not that clean and tidy; the Packers think they should have had a chance to change their mind on the call.
“Clete had it on heads,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game, via Jason Wilde and Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. “He was showing heads, so I called tails, and it didn’t flip. It just tossed up in the air and did not turn over at all. It landed in the ground. So we obviously thought that was not right.
“He picked the coin up and flipped it to tails, and then he flipped it without giving me a chance to make a recall there. It was confusing. . . . “I think he was trying to avoid the embarrassment of what just happened. He flipped it quickly.”
Rodgers claims he would have called heads if given a chance to call it again.
Regardless of what Rodgers says after the fact, the reality is that, post-Luckett, the NFL dispensed with the whole “call it in the air” thing and requires the visiting team to lock in the choice before the coin is tossed. So the fact that Blakeman tossed the coin without flipping it shouldn’t change anything for the second call, unless Rodgers anticipated in calling tails that Blakeman was going to treat the coin like a pancake or an omelette.
In the end, the coin toss was the only broken egg in a Saturday night classic that went a long way toward cleansing the league’s palate after the Steelers-Bengals Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting game from a week earlier.