Originally posted on GRIDLINE's News & Notes, 02OCT2007

Punking the Kicker?

What in the wide world of sports is going on with these phantom FG attempts at the end of the game? You see it time and again: The kick is away but the opposing coach had called time out a split second before the ball was snapped. We remember when it used to be called "icing the kicker." Now, it's something different, and it's so new that the media haven't even come up with a name for it yet. Punking the kicker?

Icing the kicker was a noble endeavor. The opposing coach called a time out just as the kicker got into position, to "give him time to think about it." More often than not, the kicker demonstrated his mettle by knocking it through. A good kicker is known for coming through in the clutch, and the time out often served to extend his moment of glory. It was good for the game.

But punking the kicker is not good for the game. Fans don't appreciate it because they don't know if the kick is official anymore. We used to react immediately, with raucous cheer or a chosen curseword. The moment was real. Now, we don't know how to react. We see the kick and the officials are signalling "GOOD", but the referee is signaling time out.

And we don't understand the psychology as it applies to the kicker. The 'icing' doesn't occur until after the first kick is away. If he missed it, he lives to kick again. If he made it, he needs a redo. The kicker experiences either relief or disappointment, but how is it that more effective than the traditional icing?

What can the NFL do to curtail this practice?

When you look at the mechanics of "Punking the Kicker" the key element is timing. How does the coach get the time out called at such a precise moment? A closer look reveals the secret to the trick, a simple clinch between the opposing coach and the nearest official. It is what allows the coach to whisper those sweet nothings into his ear: "Not yet ... not yet ... not yet ... TIMEOUT!"

We don't need a major rule change to fix this. All the NFL has to do is adjust the officiating crew's alignment on FGs. In effect, make it mandatory that no official be in the immediate proximity of the head coach on FG attempts. The coach can still ice the kicker - he has several seconds to secure his timeout before the kick's away - but getting the attention of an official 20 yards away in time to call a time out at the exact second ... it ain't gonna happen. Eliminate the clinch and you eliminate the problem. No more punking the kicker.