I Sez / Clap Clap ClapClapClap: “Icing the Kicker” Technique Trend Inspired
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 20, 2007
*Disclaimer: The Good Dr. still does not wish to appear to believe himself any sort of expert on matters athletic, therefore he acknowledges that his opinions on the matter continue to be self-indulgent and often largely suspect, unlike with all other matters, on which his word is final
I was watching that Bills – Cowboys game on Monday Night Football a month or two ago–or at least, I was watching the last quarter–and I was amazed by the zaniness of the whole thing. The Cowboys were clearly the superior team, but they just kept fucking up–QB Tony Romo had something like five interceptions, and it was still an eight-point game for the Cowboys with only a few minutes to go. They get a touchdown with a half-minute left, but screwed up the two-point conversion, which should’ve ended the game. But then an onside kick, a couple good downfield passes, and Dallas kicker Nick Folk was in range (well, sort of, 53 yards) for a field goal. Folk kicked it, and it was good, for a last-second victory over the Bills.
That run alone would’ve been enough to make it a Little Giants-worthy sequence of dramatic athletic unlikeliness. But then, it turned out the kick had been invalidated by Bills coach Dick Jauron calling timeout just before Nick Folk geared up–forcing Folk to go through with the 53-yard beauty of a kick, only to have to do it all over again. Turns out that the move was somewhat irrelevant, as Folk somehow had a second one in him, nailing the second kick even more precisely. But my mind was blown just the same–can you actually get away with shit like that in the NFL?
Much to my surprise, this move was not illegal, and not even unprecedented. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan pulled the same move against the Raiders in week two, who, inspired, went on to pull the move themselves against the Browns the next week. Both times, the move–known as “icing the kicker”–had the desired effect, nullifying successful FGs and generating flubbed second attempts. There are probably examples that predate ’07, too, but I’m pretty sure it’s only in this year that it’s fully registered as a legitimate trend (and if even that’s not true, fuck it, it’s worth writing about its awesomeness anyway).
I love it. That it’s not blatantly illegal is amazing enough, that it’s actually becoming a socially acceptable last-ditch coaching manouever is just hilarious. Can you possibly imagine how frustrating this would be if you were a placekicker? The closest equivalent I’ve heard drawn to it is base runners going on a 3-2 count with two outs–since if the batter walks or strikes out, it’ll have been pointless, and if he hits it foul, they’ll have to go back and do it over again, but they can’t afford to look back at the batter themselves to see. But even that–the game isn’t relying on the base runner, really, its on the batter, and he’ll know whether he hits it or not. Imagine what it would feel like to split the uprights from 53 yards to win a come-from-behind game, to start your mental celebration, only to find out you have to do it again. Imagine what it would feel like if you missed a second time. Imagine how impossible it would be not to resist the urge to strangle the opposing coach for pulling such a cheap stunt and costing you the glory and the game.
Bottom line is, this sort of out-in-the-open under-handedness is what’s so badly missing from sports right now, even in the NFL. For such a rough-and-tumble league, where bodies are destroyed and dreams are shattered practically every week, it seems like everyone is altogether too polite. In the media blitz leading up to the Pats-Colts game, it was like both sides were in competition to proclaim the other team the superior one. Seemed like every day, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were talking about how scared they were of the other, and Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy were trying to prove their team was taking the other one more seriously. Huh? When did football, of all sports, start to get so terrified of showing a little hubris? Even after they won, the Pats remained calm, continuing to insist that they were taking their schedule “one game at a time,” as if no one on the team was thinking HOLY SHIT 16-0. This isn’t the NFL I was promised.
What this icing the kicker mishigas does is to serve as an actual drawing of a line in the sand. It’s saying “yeah, I’m screwing you on a loophole, ‘fuck you gonna do about it?” It’s challenging the sport to be as confrontational mentally as it is physically. It’s doing what the Pats have been doing on the field, if not off–running up the score to 56-10*, going for it on the fourth down in the fourth quarter, generally just scoring as much as possible even in irrelevant situations, because they can. If the rules allow it, and if it works, then why the hell not? Shady, sure, and probably somewhat immoral, but it makes for great sports and riveting television, which is always truly the greater good.
That’s not to say that this move is as infallable as it is sinister, however. Coach Shanahan to catch lightning in a bottle with the move again tonight against the Tennessee Titans, icing Titans kicker Rob Bironas from 56 yards out. But this time, it had the opposite of the desired effect–Bironas missed his interrupted kick, but nailed the follow-up, making Shanahan a life-saver for Tennessee. Only fair, I suppose, that a move so underhanded should have such a high potential for backfiring.
Nonetheless, icing the kicker is a move guaranteed to up the drama, frustration and ridiculousness of any given football game. And if these guys aren’t going to give us the drama, frustration and ridiculousness they should be required to be giving us off the field, they better start doing their damndest to be doing it in-game.
*Also against the Bills, currently in the running for the second-most put-upon team in the NFL today