Icing the kicker, or why coaches are sometimes wrong

Journalists (and fans) love to second-guess coaches. Honestly, they’re rarely on solid ground. We don’t see everything in practice and team meetings. Coaching staffs sometimes spend 80 hours a week going over game plans in minute detail, and journalists (and fans) simply can’t match that depth of knowledge.

Asking about a particular decision is one thing. That’s illuminating. We can learn more about the game that way — if the coach’s reasons can be made public. Armchair coaching, on the other hand, is usually ridiculous.

But sometimes, those of us in the pressbox or the stands can see the forest for the trees. Or we can see a blind spot or bias that forces a bad move. One example: In retrospect, D.C. United’s handling of Freddy Adu was far from ideal, particularly when Peter Nowak pulled him out of a playoff game in which he was supplying plenty of creativity that replacement Matias Donnet did not.

And coaches are often playing hunches that just don’t add up. I’m convinced NFL coaches are doing just that when they call time out to “ice” the kicker.

The problems with icing:

A. Without the timeout, kickers may be rushed to get their kicks away. So many things can go wrong with the snap, the hold or the kick. Calling timeout gives everyone a chance to get in place.

B. The timeout sometimes comes so late that the kicker gets a practice kick. Then he has a chance to check the wind, check his footing and make any other correction.

C. That’s one timeout gone. Suppose the kicker puts his team ahead, and you have to come back and drive the length of the field? That timeout would’ve been useful, right?

I’m going to keep an eye out for the rest of the season — I’m sure I’ll find several really bad icing calls. (Yes, I must be overcompensating for the lack of hockey this season.)

Example #1: Giants-Eagles, Sept. 30. New York kicker Lawrence Tynes misses a 54-yard field goal for the win, but Philly coach Andy Reid had called a late timeout. See Problem B above. Tynes corrected the flight of the ball on his second attempt, but he came up a yard short to bail out Reid. Three more feet on that kick, and Reid is being vilified this morning.

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2 thoughts on “Icing the kicker, or why coaches are sometimes wrong

  1. My wife was ready to strangle Andy Reid last night. I had to tell her that even though the second kick was on target it had fallen short. But, yes, I think and hope we may have witnessed the extinction of the “ice-the-kicker” timeout with that incident and a couple of similar ones that (as I recall) occurred last year.

  2. There doesn’t seem to be any statistical evidence that “icing” the kicker works. It may have been something that worked in the past and coaches just haven’t adjusted their strategies (the kicking game in the NFL have vastly improved over the past 10-15 years). It could also be something as simple as coaches doing something for the sake of doing something, since they have virtually no control over the outcome of an opponent’s field goal attempt.

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