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Cold facts of NFL: coaches icing kickers
Question of the Day
Andy Reid stood in the middle of the Eagles' locker room after his team barely survived against the New York Giants last weekend, and apologized.
"I owe you one," he said with a smile.
Reid wouldn't have been smiling and almost certainly still would have been apologizing had New York's Lawrence Tynes nailed his second attempt at a 54-yard field goal in the final seconds Sunday night. A nanosecond before Tynes booted his first try, Reid called timeout to ice the veteran kicker.
It wasn't the first time a coach tried the ploy and it won't be the last. Yes, it sure has gotten cold on a bunch of NFL fields this season, with winter still far away. But some say icing should be reserved only for hockey.
Including Reid's own quarterback, Michael Vick.
"I don't believe in icing the kicker," Vick said. "You give everything. You let them kick it and if it's good it's going to be good. If not, you can't play games. I don't know who started that, but we have to end that tradition."
Reid seemed well aware of how the home fans would have reacted if his decision backfired.
"Yeah, when you're surrounded by 66,000 that probably want to rip your throat out at that time, that's about twenty-fold what Custer felt," he said.
Tynes probably was kicking from beyond his range _ he's never connected from 54 yards _ so he appreciated the chance to get in a "practice kick," which sailed wide left. The one that counted came up a few yards short.
"I would never let a guy kick it," said Tynes, whose resume includes kicks that won two NFC title games. "I would call it even before, well, after he gets lined up. I don't understand the wait till the last second thing.
"It's part of the game now, so you know it can happen. I don't think you should worry about it."
Nor does David Akers, the All-Pro kicker of the 49ers who has spent 14 seasons kicking football through uprights _ icing or not.
"I just go out and try to kick every time," he said. "If the whistle is blown, I step back and I still approach the ball again as if I was walking on the field. It's basically the mentality I've always had on it.
"Does it affect anyone? I don't know. I guess it depends on the individual and circumstance and environment."
Eagles specials teams coordinator Bobby April sees the value in the strategy, but only to a point. He equates to onside kicks, recalling that the Saints won a Super Bowl in part because they recovered such a kick to start the second half.
"Icing the kicker is like trick plays or fakes," April said. "You're brilliant if they work and you're something else if they don't."
Some coaches are thinking twice about doing it in the wake of so many mixed results.
The Jaguars' Mike Mularkey saw it work for Reid but fail for Miami's Joe Philbin, and that got him wondering about the value of icing.
"I've seen it (backfire) more than not, I really have," Mularkey said. "I've done it and I'm seeing more things happen that are not positive by doing it.
"A lot of things that come down to that moment, but there's a lot of things that you think you have the answer, but when it happens you have to make some decisions. It really depends on the situation with the number of timeouts, where are you, do you need them? It does factor in. But I have been a little bit swayed by what's happened to teams (recently). It's happened more than enough to go `Wow!' so I'll think about it."
So will Philbin after his decision cost the Dolphins. Jets kicker Nick Folk had his 33-yarder blocked by Randy Starks, but the whistle had sounded just before that as Philbin signaled a timeout. Folk then hit the retry in overtime.
"I thought it was the right call," Philbin said. "I was planning all along to call timeout right before he kicked the ball. ... Typically we're going to ice the kicker."
But why? Where's the edge?
In fact, it could work to a kicking team's advantage because the "warm-up" attempt can give the kicker a feel for the wind and the footing. It can give away the defense's strategy for trying to block the field goal. It provides the center with a practice snap.
Most kickers say icing has no effect, and some welcome it because they get a "mulligan." Billy Cundiff, now with Washington, probably wishes he had been iced by the Patriots in last year's AFC championship game before he rushed and missed a 32-yarder that would have tied it in the waning seconds for Baltimore.
"It would have worked in my favor," said Cundiff, who missed three times last Sunday at Tampa Bay before kicking the winner after the Buccaneers didn't ice him; they had no timeouts left. "Because I ran out there and everything was hurried and it was a rushed situation. If he would have done that, I would have probably gone over and given him a big hug."
Mike Shanahan is considered the father of the icing technique. When he was coaching Denver, he tried it against the Raiders, bringing attention to the ploy because he waited so long to signal timeout. The next season, he did it against Houston because the kicker "had made 14 in a row" and he missed. But he got another try and "hit it right down the middle and you feel like a complete idiot."
"Anyway, you've just got to go with your gut sometimes," Shanahan said. "What I do is if I see a kicker that's got a lot of confidence and he's ready to go, sometimes I will call a timeout. Other times, I just let it go."
His kicker for years in Denver, Jason Elam, invited the timeouts because it gave him more time to concentrate.
Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie, whose father, Steve, handled the same chores for the team two decades ago, wonders just who is being iced. He recalled a story Steve told about Matt Bahr getting ready to kick his fifth field goal for the win in the 1990 NFC championship game in San Francisco. First, 49ers coach George Seifert called timeout.
Bahr was unfazed, turning to his snapper and saying, "Steve, they're trying to ice you."
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia, and Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., Joseph White in Washington, D..C., Janie McCauley in San Francisco and Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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