That does it. The next NFL coach who calls a timeout during a field goal attempt by the opposing team gets sentenced to five years of coaching Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco with the Iowa Barnstormers.
The next college coach who pulls this stunt gets forced to spend a weekend with Lane Kiffin.
It's time to end this silliness. You know the scenario. The kicker kicks what appears to be the game-winning field goal except — wait! — the other coach called timeout nanoseconds before the kick. It doesn't count. Cut! Stop the celebration. Cue the kicker. Take 2.
This is absurd theater. Fans don't even know what they saw immediately. Was it a timeout? Did the kick count? Is the game over? Is there a do-over? Is it time to cheer or groan? Should they all go home and the league will get back to them with the results?
It's the dumbest thing since the NBA let players call timeout as they were leaping out of bounds (now outlawed). No, it's the dumbest thing since the Pro Bowl or the 162-game baseball season. Want to know how dumb it is: It's almost as dumb as the BCS.
By calling timeout before a field goal attempt, the coach of course is hoping to ice the kicker — to give him the yips, or rattle him. Coaches used to call timeout before teams actually lined up for the kick, just to give the kicker more time to fret about it. Then it became this other thing. They call timeouts a split second before the snap so there isn't time to stop the play. It's part commonplace, a part of the game, like huddles. It's as if the coaches discovered a new party trick. Yet it produces mixed, if not embarrassing, results.
In 2010, the Redskins celebrated Graham Gano's game-winning field goal until they realized Texans coach Gary Kubiak called timeout just before the play. Gano missed his second attempt. Score one for icing.
In 2008, Raiders coach Tom Cable called timeout just before Jets kicker Jay Feely missed what would have been a game-tying field with seconds left in the game. Given a second chance, Feely split the uprights.
In 2007, Cowboys kicker Nick Folk kicked the game-winning field goal in front of a Monday night TV audience, sending Bills fans to the exits and the Cowboys into a celebration. But Bills coach Dick Jauron had called a timeout moments before the snap and it didn't count. Folk proceeded to kick his second game-winning field goal of the night.
Earlier this season, the Dolphins blocked an overtime field goal attempt by Jets kicker Nick Folk and immediately began celebrating. But, wait, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had called time out. Folk then made his second attempt to win the game. "I got another warm-up kick," said Folk.
Last Sunday, Eagles coach Andy Reid called timeout just as Lawrence Tynes missed a field goal kick. Reid avoided embarrassment only because Tynes missed again.
The situation reached the height of absurdity last season when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett accidentally iced his own kicker in a game against Arizona. Dan Bailey kicked a 49-yard field goal that appeared to win the game with six seconds left. But Garrett had called a timeout moments before the play — and moments before opposing coach Ken Whisenhunt was going to do the same thing. Bailey missed his second attempt. Garrett explained later that he had called timeout because his team appeared unsettled, but clearly gamesmanship was out of control that night.
Statistics show that icing doesn't work (some kickers think it actually gives them a chance to warm up). In his book "Scorecasting," economist Tobias Moskowitz compared the results of field goal attempts with and without the icing treatment based on nine seasons of play. There was almost no difference; in fact, when a kicker was iced with 15 or fewer seconds remaining in the game, they were actually more successful.
Nick Stamms of STATS, Inc., produced another study that examined every pressure kick (those in the final two minutes of the game) from 1991 to 2005. It showed a 71.7 percent success rate for non-iced kicks versus 72 percent for iced kicks. (Coaches seeing this will say — to borrow a Jim Carrey line — "So you're telling me I've got a chance!")
According to a 2010 report in the Wall Street Journal, from 2000 to 2010 NFL kickers converted 77.3 percent of their field goal attempts in the final two minutes or in overtime when no timeout was called. When a timeout was called, kickers converted 79.7 percent.1 comment on this story
Personally, I think the icing practice is bush league and bad form, and referees should ignore timeouts that come too late to stop the play. Imagine a baseball manager calling timeout a split second before Justin Verlander releases a fastball for a called third strike or a home run or whatever.
Imagine calling a timeout a split second before Kobe Bryant releases a free throw with the game on the line? Well, fortunately, basketball has a rule against that. Once the ball is handed to the player no timeouts should be called.
A similar rule is long overdue in the NFL. One solution: No timeouts can be called once the play clock reaches 15 seconds or 10 seconds.
For now, when a kicker is on the field and the game is on the line, nobody is sure what they are seeing.