What Happens When You Ice Your Own Kicker?

In our Freakonomics Football episode “Why Even Ice a Kicker?”, Stephen Dubner explores the NFL fad of calling a timeout just before the opposing team’s kicker attempts a crucial field goal. The idea is to get into the kicker’s head, and make him think about all that pressure he’s under to make a big kick. The practice has become all but routine in the NFL, even though, according to the data, it doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But what about when a coach ices his own kicker? 

That’s essentially what Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett did on Sunday during a game against the Arizona Cardinals. With the score tied at 13, and just seven seconds left in regulation, Dallas rookie kicker Dan Bailey lined up for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal. Right before the snap, Garrett called timeout. Bailey kicked it anyway, and nailed it. His second attempt? Not so good — he shanked it wide left. The game went into overtime, and Dallas ended up losing 19-13.

Here’s how Garrett explained his decision during his post-game press conference:

“The play clock was running down. We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett explained. “It was at about 6 (seconds) and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a time out to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible.”

As a Washington Redskins fan, I can’t help but crack a smile at the Cowboys’ misfortune. Of course, the Redskins have had their own icing miscues. Back in 2007, then head coach Joe Gibbs tried to ice Buffalo’s kicker twice, by calling two timeouts in a row: resulting in a 15-yard, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That turned a 51-yard try into a 36-yard try — which Buffalo’s kicker Rian Lindell made.

So, the moral here? Stop messing around and just let him kick the thing.

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  1. BL1Y says:

    Teams should fine their coaches $10,000 for every penalty yard the coach himself causes. I think they’d learn the rules real quick.

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  2. Brian says:

    Thought about the article as soon as the timeout was called. Stupid.

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  3. Charlie says:

    When I saw that on the highlight reel yesterday, I just assumed that coach Garrett had seen Stephen Dubner’s piece on how icing a kicker actually increases their accuracy for long kicks.

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  4. Mark says:

    I noticed that Tom Coughlin kept the Giants’ last timeout in his pocket at the end of the Packers-Giants game. Trying to ice a kicker as good as Crosby on a chip-shot field goal would probably have been pointless anyway, but maybe it’s a small step in the right direction.

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  5. marlowe says:

    so I guess you really are referring to “icing on the cake.” I luv chocolate icing/cream.

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  6. Voice of Reason says:

    It always seems to me that icing the kicker is stupid, because if the kicker takes advantage of it, he essentially gets a dress rehersal on the kick. Sure, he can kick into a net all he wants before the kick, but you never really get a chance to kick a live ball through the uprights during the game as a kicker unless you’re kicking a field goal or PAT. A coach icing you makes for the perfect excuse for the LS to snap it, and for you to test out your legs, and see what you need to work out.

    It seems that maybe that’s what the coach was going for this time. Hopefully in the future, coaches put an end to these stupid icing rituals.

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    • Cal says:

      True. And I’ve seen that happen before, too. Kicker misses on the one that didn’t count because of the time out, but makes the one that does.

      But I guess, as annoying as it is as a viewer, I can understand why coaches try that “icing the kicker” crap. Even if it almost never workers, having it backfire is just as rare. Most of the time, it simply has no noticeable effect at all. So it’s basically harmless to try it, since it’s not like you can save the time out for next week’s game.

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