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Icing kickers with timeouts isn't as effective as you think

Shutdown Corner

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There's not a lot of things all football fans can agree on. You like Brady, I prefer Manning. You root for the Cowboys, I root for the Redskins. You think Jon Gruden is a good analyst, I had to buy a new remote because I had pushed the mute button too much on my old one. But one fact we can all agree: The icing the kicker with a timeout rule has got to go.

Since the NFL Competition Committee seems to have no interest in doing this, our only hope in seeing this annoying, fan-unfriendly practice disappear is if coaches decide to stop it themselves. A new study by the Wall Street Journal might help matters.

The Journal looked at every NFL game since 2000 and discovered that a kicker is more likely to make a last-minute kick after a timeout than if no timeout is called. In the last two minutes of games, NFL kickers converted 77.3 percent of field goals if no timeout was called beforehand. If play was stopped for a timeout, the conversion rate improves to 79.7 percent.

Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak used icing to his advantage last weekend when he called a timeout prior to a potential game-winning kick by the Redskins' Graham Gano(notes). Kubiak called the timeout right before the snap and it wasn't whistled quickly enough to prevent Gano from attempting the try, which sailed through the uprights. After the timeout, Gano pushed the attempt wide and the Texans went on to win the game.

As long as a coach gets a result like that, we'll continue to hear whistles blow mid-kick for the near future. It's going to take a few high-profile backfires (like if Gano had missed the first kick and made the second) for the practice to peter out.

But allow me a theory, if I may: The whole point of icing is to make the kicker more nervous/less focused. I think that because calling a timeout is so expected now, not calling a timeout might accomplish the nerve/focus goal even better. If there's a nagging doubt in the kicker's mind before the first kick that it might not count, that's a solid distraction. That shred of doubt could throw off the whole thing. There's no uncertainty after a timeout. Call one and maybe the kicker calms down and regroups, knowing there's nothing to potentially throw him off anymore.

I've overthought this though. Calling a timeout the instant before a kick is lame. That is all.

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