melting iceAn interesting article about the irony of NFL coaches trying to ice the place kicker, Check It Out at esquire.com or read it here.

 

Why NFL Kickers Want Head Coaches to Ice Them

We asked a handful of kickers about those last-second time-outs opposing head coaches keep calling. Their response: “Thanks!” Also: The real reason commentators laugh so hard during pre-game shows.

By Peter Schrager

When in the heat of battle, it seems rather counter-intuitive to voluntarily help an opponent out. Whether in chess, trial law, or American Idol, giving your foes a chance to practice, re-group, and then try again at no cost whatsoever simply doesn’t make much sense.

Yet, NFL head coaches are doing precisely this, calling last-millisecond time outs in an attempt to “ice” the opposing kicker, inadvertently giving the other team a free practice shot at a field goal. The idea, of course, is to tire the kicker, to get inside his head, to force him to miss. But over the past two weeks, Icing the Kicker 2.0 has already backfired twice.

Two weeks ago, Dallas kicker Nick Folk missed a game-tying kick, but unbeknownst to the fans in the stadium, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt had whispered a timeout call into the line judge’s ear a split-second before the attempt. Given second life, the Pro Bowl kicker split his next attempt through the uprights. This past Sunday, it happened again, when Raiders interim coach Tom Cable called timeout just before Jets kicker Jay Feely clanked a field goal off the goalpost. On his second go at it, Feely nailed the 52-yard attempt, sending the game into overtime.

Ironically, Feely thought Icing 2.0 actually helped him out, telling reporters after the game: “I heard the whistle before I started, which is an advantage to the kicker. If you’re going to do that, do that before he kicks. I can kick it down the middle, see what the wind does and adjust. It helps the kicker tremendously.”

I spoke with a guy who knows a little something about pressure kicks — four-time Super Bowl champion and future NFL Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri — earlier this week. “The coaches calling timeouts at the last possible second — I think that’s something that will be addressed by the NFL Rules Committee,” says Vinatieri. “Sometimes, though, it may be a good thing. It gives us an opportunity to actually see the ball on the ground, kick the ball and have another shot at it.”

So why do coaches do this? Because it works, at least from the small statistical analysis that’s been done. According to Michael David Smith at FootballOutsiders.com, “In a 2004 article in the academic journal Chance, two statisticians studied every field goal attempt from the 2002 and 2003 NFL seasons, and isolated all the ‘pressure’ kicks — those that would tie the game or give the team a lead within the final three minutes of the game. The statisticians found that kickers were more likely to miss those pressure kicks if the opposing team had called a timeout beforehand.”

But that’s old-fashioned icing — after all, Bill Parcells called a timeout before Scott Norwood’s infamous miss in Super Bowl XXV. This last-second Icing 2.0 concept only began in 2006, when a rule change gave head coaches the right to call timeouts from the sideline. Denver coach Mike Shanahan became the first to employ Icing 2.0 early last season in a win over Oakland. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin liked it so much that he pulled the move the very next week in a victory over Cleveland. Suddenly, it was all the rage.

Only, it hasn’t really “worked” since.

 

University of Florida coach Urban Meyer tried Icing 2.0 against Auburn last year — Auburn’s kicker nailed both of his attempts, as shown in the video above. Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron tried Icing 2.0 last year against the Cowboys. The aforementioned Folk made both kicks in that situation, too.

Those who look beyond the statistical analysis (and who probably don’t subscribe to the academic journal Chance) think “icing the kicker” is just plain absurd. Writer Stefan Fatsis spent a year with the Denver Broncos, actually suiting up at kicker during the team’s 2006 training camp for his best-selling book A Few Seconds of Panic: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL. “Kickers usually miss kicks because they struck the ball a quarter inch above or below, to the right or the left of where they should have, which can happen in the first quarter as easily as it can in the fourth,” explains Fatsis. “Snappers and holders play a role here, too, don’t forget. So coaches and media and fans can believe what they want, but kickers miss 52-yard field goals because it’s not easy to kick 52-yard field goals. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Factor in the chance to go through all the motions and actually have a practice kick in a pressure situation and it’s tough to figure out why opposing coaches even consider Icing 2.0 anymore.

But from the looks of it, the latest fad in coaching doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. As current St. Louis Rams and former Seattle Seahawks kicker Josh Brown told me this week, “Thank God there are only three time outs. I think coaches would do this all day long if they could.”

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