New year, new rules: Rule No. 7

Updated: December 15, 2010, 11:11 AM ET
ESPN The Magazine

Rule No. 7: Put icing on ice

This September, after Pitt kicked a last-second field goal to tie Utah, the Panthers had the rare opportunity to rue -- then thank -- NFL coach Mike Shanahan. Just before kicker Dan Hutchins split the uprights, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had called a timeout, erasing those three points from the board. He called another for kick No. 2, just before it sailed wide. Finally, Whittingham backed off, and Hutchins nailed try three.

The farcical finish to regulation -- Utah won in OT -- was Shanahan's fault. On Sept. 16, 2007, Raider Sebastian Janikowski hit a 52-yard field goal in OT, and his teammates stormed the field. Too bad. Shanahan, knowing Janikowski adhered to a particularly rhythmic routine, had called a timeout a split second before the snap. Janikowski booted the redo off the upright, the Broncos went on to win and an especially annoying icing-the-kicker tactic was born.

Funny thing is, the intended targets aren't the ones who suffer most often. There have been 19 Shanahan-style TOs in the NFL since 2007. Five times the kicker made the first field goal and missed the second, but six times the move backfired, with the kicker nailing the mulligan after blowing the first try. "I think the timeout is a benefit to kickers," says Cardinals kicker Jay Feely. "If you give Tiger Woods two putts, he's much more likely to make the second one. Same thing with kicking. All the last-second timeout does is disrupt the flow of the game. Plus, it borders on unsportsmanlike conduct."

In the end, the people whose skin coaches most get under with this move are the fans. So here's what needs to become law: Once the offensive line is set in field-goal formation, if the defense calls a timeout, it's a five-yard penalty.

And you know who might actually go for that? Mike Shanahan. "If it's better for the game, I'm all for it," he says. "I just wish it was installed a year ago." In Week 2, Shanahan's longtime assistant, Texans coach Gary Kubiak, successfully iced Redskins kicker Graham Gano in overtime.

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