Playing Mind Games on Kickers Doesn't Always Work ; Study Found 'Icing' Tactic before Field-Goal Attempts Didn't Change Success Rate

By Borden, Sam | International Herald Tribune, October 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

Playing Mind Games on Kickers Doesn't Always Work ; Study Found 'Icing' Tactic before Field-Goal Attempts Didn't Change Success Rate


Borden, Sam, International Herald Tribune


One recent study says taking a timeout before a field-goal attempt does not really change the overall rate of success.

It is anticlimactic, drama-draining and a killer of rhythm. It is, from a statistical perspective, debatably effective. And it is, in the words of New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes, "the most ridiculously talked-about and overanalyzed issue in the game."

Despite all that, a coach's signaling a timeout just before the opposing team attempts an important field goal -- the so-called icing-the-kicker routine -- does not appear to be going away anytime soon, even as many players say it has become so common that the real surprise would be if a coach actually kept his hands in his pockets.

So could there be a day when not calling a timeout becomes the norm before a kick?

"I honestly think it's going to come around to people letting them kick," Zak DeOssie, the Giants' long snapper on punts and field goals, said recently. "At this point, you know it is coming. You're expecting the timeout now. Everyone's come to expect it at any level."

The strategy is continually on display. This season, the Giants and the New York Jets featured it prominently. In Week 3, the Jets were granted a reprieve after Nick Folk missed a game-winning kick because Miami Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin had called a timeout. (Folk converted the second attempt.) A week later, in the final seconds of the Giants' loss to Philadelphia, Tynes hooked a hurried 54-yard attempt wide left but had another try because Eagles Coach Andy Reid had used the same tactic.

Given a few moments to gather himself, Tynes's second effort was far better, flying straight and pure but coming up a yard or two short.

To Tynes, that situation -- in which the Giants' unit rushed onto the field and "we didn't know what we were doing" -- was an example of how icing can actually help a kicker, not hurt him. "If I was a coach, I wouldn't call it," he said. "We got to slow down, and do it again better. Plus, why would you ever want to give someone a practice rep on anything?"

The modern form of icing the kicker -- that is, a coach waiting until just before the snap to do it as opposed to having a player on the field make the call -- can be traced to 2007, which was the first year coaches were given the authority to call timeouts. Mike Shanahan, then with the Denver Broncos, is given credit for being the first to use the tactic, as he called a timeout just before Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski tried a potential game- winning kick. …

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