In the latest episode of Football Freakonomics, experts examined whether there was any basis to the commonplace maneuver of icing the kicker.
The storied tradition of icing the kicker was actually begun by your very own Mike Shanahan as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2007. Just as Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski lined up for the game-winning kick, Shanahan sneaked over to the line judge and called a timeout, negating his 3-point boot.
Minutes later, he missed his second try. The Broncos went on to win that game, and thus, a new football tradition was born. Four years later, it’s unthinkable not to put him on ice.
But, evidently, it doesn’t actually work, and Redskins Graham Gano would agree.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t even call it ‘icing’–it’s stupid,” Gano said. “[Texans head coach Gary] Kubiac did it to me last year.”
And it worked:
But that doesn’t mean that Gano got iced. He just missed a kick.
“Last year, I missed the second kick on one try, but you can’t put that on one kick,” he explained. “I just missed the kick. I made the first one and missed the second one. I was a little too excited, got a little too amped on the second one, and just missed it.”
Maybe they shouldn’t call it ‘icing’ the kicker, when it’s really more like ‘hyper-activating the kicker.’
“I mean at this level, we’re all professionals, whether you give us one or two tries, we should be able to put it in,” he said. “I dunno what the stats are, but I think any time you give a guy a second time to kick it, it’s gonna improve his odds of hitting home.”
And Gano is dead on with his assumptions. Inside of 50 yards, the odds of hitting a kick on the second try is virtually identical to not being iced at all. But from outside of 50 yards, the odds actually improve by about 100 percent. Practice, indeed, makes perfect.
So then what’s the catch? Gano says it’s the power of individualism.
“It depends on the player I guess,” he said. “If you’ve got a nervy guy, it’ll work, but I mean, I don’t feel any pressure on the field whatsoever. Pressure is just a normal day for us.”
He continued: “It just depends on when they ice you: I think they’ve iced me before I’ve kicked it, after I’ve kicked it, all kinds of stuff, and I haven’t missed since. So I don’t think it really matters.”