Icing the kicker remains ineffective practice

On Sunday night, Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had his potential game-tying 47-yard field goal blocked by Jason Pierre-Paul on the game’s penultimate play.

The block came after Bailey drilled the same 47-yard try moments earlier, a split-second after the Giants called timeout to ice him.

Since Bailey also missed a potential game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals seven days earlier, after a timeout called by his own coach, many will undoubtedly look at this small sample size and conclude that icing the kicker should be a routine strategy employed by head coaches.

However, looking at the effectiveness of such a strategy reveals that coaches are better off pocketing their timeouts.

FG Pct by Distance, Since 2001
10 Seconds or Less in 4th Qtr

With 10 seconds or less remaining in the 4th quarter, kickers who are not iced have made 70.2 percent of field goals since 2001.

When a timeout is called immediately before the try, they made 83.0 percent of attempts. That increase of 12.8 percentage points means recent attempts to ice a kicker at the end of a game actually increased the kicker’s chances of success by 18.2 percent.

Breaking those numbers down by distance shows that icing is particularly ineffective on long field goals. Field goals are made a higher rate following a timeout at all increments, but kickers more than double their accuracy on tries of 50 or more yards, hitting 77.8 percent after a timeout, compared to 37.5 percent otherwise.

Something coaches should think about as they sidle up to the official, hands poised to call timeout in an end-game situation.