Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Icing the Kicker Doesn’t Work: The Lesson NFL Coaches Need to Learn


After the dramatic ending of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks NFL Divisional Playoff game today, the topic of icing the kicker has come to the forefront. Matt Bryant’s late game winning field goal was set up by a Pete Carroll time out that gave Bryant a chance to retake a kick he missed. So does icing the kicker really work? Bill Barnwell of Grantland put it best when he said:

Calling timeout right before a field goal attempt is usually the last resort after a series of bad decisions.

The article on Grantland (found here, give it a read after you read this) has hard statistical data that backs up the idea that icing the kicker actually backfires on NFL coaches. Barnwell quotes Adam Vinatieri as saying that icing actually helps him focus and assess the situation by getting the free kick often associated with the icing the kicker situation. This is real life, not NCAA Football on Xbox, and the controller doesn’t rumble more just because a timeout is called.

Mike Shanahan successfully debuted the modern iteration of icing the kicker in 2007, when he got a timeout in just in time to call off a Sebastian Janikowski made field goal. Janikowski missed the second attempt, and the Broncos won the game. Since then, every NFL coach has taken to the ridiculous habit of giving an NFL player a chance to practice the most important field goal kick of the game. The NFL is full of players who are the absolute best at their position, and the likelihood of a minute-long timeout affecting the mental or physical state of an NFL kicker is quite low. Any positive results to icing the kicker in the past few years are purely coincidental and up to the random nature of the field goal kick.

There is a lot that goes into winning a football game, and the Seahawks made many more mistakes than simply icing the kicker.  But hopefully this is yet another example of why icing the kicker doesn’t work. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in football, and I can’t wait to see it phased out completely.

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