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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.