Alex Fredkin, Arts Editor
Icing the kicker is a popular technique in the NFL, but does it work? Often times, when a kicker has an upcoming pressure kick, he is expected to be nervous. He might need to make the attempt in order to tie the game and go into overtime. Or maybe there are ten seconds left on the clock and the game is tied, giving the kicker the sole opportunity to win the game for his team, or forgo this chance and leave it up to overtime to decide.
This has led to a recent trend in the NFL called “icing the kicker.” An opposing coach will call a time-out right before the kicker actually kicks the ball, nullifying that play. This extends the situation and forces the kicker to spend a few more minutes thinking about the play, and makes him take it again. The theory is that hopefully he is more nervous and his concentration is thrown off, which will cause him to miss the next kick.
The fact of the matter is that this almost never works. For one, these people are professional athletes; they can deal with pressure. Hypothetically, if I was even physically able to kick a 40 yard field goal, would icing work against me? Yes, without a doubt. I would be so nervous I would most likely trip and fall before I even got to kick the ball. But, I clearly am not in the NFL. Professional kickers do not get nervous; it is their job to be able to make kicks like this. Well-known player Adam Vinatieri won two Super Bowls for the New England Patriots in this fashion. He clearly was under a lot of pressure, but made the kicks anyways.
Icing the kicker also has produced an unintended phenomena; it allows the kicker to get two tries at the same play. Nowadays it is expected that the opposing coach will ice the kicker. This has effectively erased the pressure from the play, because the kicker knows that his first attempt is not even going to count. Often times the kicker will line up and make the kick. On his second try he makes it again because he has already made it once and knows he can do it; the technique has zero effect. The worst-case scenario, which has occurred multiple times, is that the kicker will miss at first, but then make his second attempt. So the team would have won the game, but due to icing the kicker they lose.
This has already been demonstrated during this NFL season as early as Week 3. The Dolphins were playing the Jets in a very close game that went to overtime. The Jets lined up for a 33 yarder (a high percentage kick) to win the game. The Dolphins called a time-out, and the kick was blocked! It was most likely blocked because the Jets players assumed a time-out would be called and that the play did not matter, so they did not block as hard as they normally would. The Dolphins would have won if they had not called a time-out. Instead, the Jets made the kick on the second attempt, and won the game. Allowing a kicker a second try is a gift; it does not mess up his focus or concentration at all.
The same situation almost occurred again only a week later in Week 4. The Eagles were playing the Giants on Monday night football. The Giants kicker had a 54 yard attempt to win the game, and missed his first field goal by a long shot to the left. He ended up missing the second attempt as well, but his kick was right down the middle and was short by only a yard or two. This is only because 54 yards is an incredibly long kick for anyone to make, it is not too far off from the all time record of 63 yards. The Eagles got very lucky in that game. Allowing someone a second chance to do the same thing over again obviously increases their chances of being successful the second time; it does not make the attempt any harder, rather easier.
If I was a coach, I would never ice the kicker. It has been proven that it does not work, and if anything, can end up backfiring and cause the team to lose a game that they should have won. I call for a stop to icing the kicker; let the players do their thing and stop trying to mess with their heads. They are professional athletes and the outcome will be decided by who is the most skilled, not by who can play the best head games.
Very good editorial Alexander Fredkin. I totally agree with you