INDIANAPOLIS — One word from Giants special teams captain Zak DeOssie will begin the Super Bowl.
With more than 100 million people watching in the United States alone, the long snapper from New York, other Giants captains and their counterparts from New England will see referee John Parry display both sides of a special commemorative coin for the opening toss.
Then, DeOssie will choose his side.
“I’ve called ‘tails’ every single time this year, and that’s what it’s going to be this weekend,” DeOssie said Thursday.
Chances are, he’ll be right.
The National Conference has won the past 14 Super Bowl coin flips, though that hasn’t turned out so well in the end. The American Conference has won nine of those 14 title games.
Want to pick the Super Bowl winner? Might as well just flip a coin. The team that’s won the opening toss is only 22-23 in the title game, evidence that it has very little impact on whatever happens next.
It’s still a special moment, one that gamblers lay money on and businesses build promotions around. One chain is offering its rewards program customers a free pizza if the coin comes up heads.
It’s also significant in another way: A rare game decision left entirely up to the players.
“I’m out of that one,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday.
“We have our captains and they decide who’s going to make that call. We do keep track of who wins and who loses, thank you very much.”
DeOssie, whose father Steve also played in the NFL, got the honor on a whim.
He and the other two Giants captains – quarterback Eli Manning and defensive end Justin Tuck – were walking toward midfield before the season opener in Washington when the subject came up for the first time.
“Eli turned to Tuck and said, ‘You want to call it?’ ” DeOssie said. “And Tuck said, ‘Nah, I don’t feel like it. I don’t need to call it. Zak, you want to call it?’ I said yeah, sure.”
It was his job the rest of the way.
In the NFL, the visiting team gets to call the coin flip. DeOssie went 4-4 during the regular season, and the Giants chose to receive the kickoff rather than defer all four times.
It came up heads during a second-round playoff win at Green Bay, but DeOssie got the coin to land his way twice during a win at San Francisco in the NFC title game, including overtime.
Coughlin wouldn’t say what he’ll pick if it comes up tails on Sunday. He has chosen to receive the kickoff most times.
Like everything else in the NFL, coin flips are tracked for trends.
During the 2011 regular season, teams that won the flip and chose to take the ball went 71-79, according to STATS LLC. Teams that deferred to the second half were 64-42.