Posted by Doug on December 23, 2010
File this under "I know that most stuff that happened before I was born was quaint, but not this quaint"....
As the final week of the 1970 season approached, the Vikings had clinched the NFC Central, but the West and East were up for grabs, as was the wildcard (or, as it was known at the time, "the playoff berth for the best second-place team"), with the Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Rams and 49ers all in the mix for three available slots. Back then, the tiebreakers were simpler: (1) head to head, (2) conference record, (3) coin flip.
As the various scenarios were examined, it began to dawn on people that a coin flip was not a remote possibility at all. A Lions/Cowboys coin flip seemed somewhat likely, and some newspaper articles referred to a potential three-way "telephonic coin flip" between the Lions, Cowboys, and Giants. My search for an explanation of the mechanics of the three-way flip ended without success.
But if Lions' GM Russ Thomas had his way, there would have been no mechanics necessary. From this UPI article:
Lions' General Manager Russ Thomas has proposed that the Lions be allowed to meet the Dallas Cowboys in a special playoff game next Wednesday instead of conducting a coin toss if the two teams tie for the playoff spot.
Lions' coach and former broken-glass-eating middle linebacker Joe Schmidt was, of course, ready to play anyone any time. Uh, but only because it was less "lousy" than a coin flip. Unfortunately, Pete Rozelle informed Thomas that such a proposal would require unanimous approval from all 26 owners, and speculated that that was extremely unlikely.
In the end, the Rams saved us the hassle by dominating the Giants 31-3. This allowed both Dallas and Detroit to control their own destinies, and both won their games easily.
Just a few weeks later, Rozelle admitted that the situation had him worried (exact words: "we damn near got burned and had to flip a coin.") and that the competition committee would probably be making some changes, but that pre-playoff playoff games were not a possibility.