Raiders lose coin toss, have No. 10 overall draft pick

Updated March 2, 2018 - 1:01 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Raiders coach Jon Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie stood on a stage Friday afternoon, their facial expression a cross between amusement and befuddlement when told a national telecast would begin broadcasting in two minutes.

One by one, they were interviewed live on NFL Network. Each offered a playful, sarcastic response when asked about the drama set to unfold.

Then came the coin toss. And a screamed expletive from a Raiders fan in attendance.

The Raiders won’t own the No. 9 overall draft pick on April 26 after all, officially assigned the 10th selection courtesy of a coin-toss tiebreaker at the NFL scouting combine. San Francisco will choose ninth. Rod Woodson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back and alumnus of both teams, performed the flip.

McKenzie grumbled as he walked from the combine’s bench press area where the spectacle unfolded.

“This is the worst — where’s Woodson?” McKenzie joked of the team’s former secondary coach. “He’s got to figure it out to make sure it lands on the right side. That was bad by him.”

A faint breeze was felt in the room. In the joking spirit, McKenzie was asked whether or not the conditions may have affected the toss.

“Yeah, something,” McKenzie said with a laugh. “I don’t know what it was. But hey, it is what it is.”

The coin toss, all joking aside, carried obvious significance. The Raiders and San Francisco 49ers both are projected to select a first-round defender. Barring a trade, any player the Raiders covet now must slide past their Bay Area neighbor.

Meanwhile, because it lost the toss, Oakland owns an earlier second-round pick; the draft order alternates each round between teams with an identical record. The Raiders have the No. 42 overall pick (10th of second round) instead of No. 43. The coin toss represented a 50-50 chance.

It being required was far less probable.

At separate points in 2017, the Raiders owned a 6-6 record and the Niners were 1-10. To force the tiebreaker, the Raiders lost their final four games. The Niners, upon turning to quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, won their final five. Both teams also finished with a .512 strength of schedule.

A commemorative, one-of-a-kind coin was used for the toss. It featured the Raiders logo on one side and the Niners logo on the other, so no one affiliated with either club called the coin in the air. General manager John Lynch represented the Niners.

Like most aspects of the NFL, the tiebreaker procedure has evolved over the years. Ken Fiore, NFL vice president of player personnel, has overseen the event since a toss between the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens at the 1996 combine. Fiore said that he casually met with then-Packers executive Ron Wolf and Ravens exec Ozzie Newsome.

“I took a quarter out of my pocket and said, ‘Who wants to flip it?’” Fiore said. “We flipped the quarter and then wrote down (the result) on a piece of paper. Both signed that they witnessed the result. That’s the first one I did. It’s graduated a little bit from there.”

The Ravens won the toss. At No. 26 overall, they selected linebacker Ray Lewis, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. At No. 27, the Packers selected offensive tackle John Michels. He played 24 games before knee issues forced his retirement.

This was the first tiebreaker coin toss to be televised live in NFL history. After the Niners won it, they retained the coin as a keepsake.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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