Posts tagged: Kicker

The Pay-Off Matrix to Icing the Kicker

By , September 24, 2009 3:00 pm

First off, Eli Manning is a great quarterback whose number will probably never reflect how good he really is.  I’m not interested in the big arm of Jay Cutler, and the accuracy of Drew Brees, or the double threat QB nightmare in Philadelphia (McNabb and Vick).  Eli Manning flat out just knows how to win games (without the ego and attitude), and he’s getting better at it.

Aside from this, there were two things I took away from the Giants Cowboys game on Sunday night, played at the eighth and ninth modern wonders of the world (Jerry Jones words, not mine), the new Cowboys Stadium.  The first thing is that the Giant receivers are pretty good and I’ll specifically note the circus TD catch by Super Mario Manningham and the incredible juke Steve Smith put on before scoring.  In basketball,  the term is “broken ankles” and in competitive urban street dance, I believe it’s “you got served Orlando Scandrick.”

The second thing was how ridiculously popular it’s become to attempt to freeze the kicker by calling a time-out at the last possible half second so that the first attempt at a field goal doesn’t count.  My buddy Jeff brought up how silly the pay-off matrix looks like when coaches try to do this.  Essentially if the kicker makes the first attempt, then there’s no reason for the kicker to believe that he can’t make it again, since kicking FGs is a highly repeatable and high probability of success event (NFL average FGs made percentage was 84.5% last year).  If he misses, then he essentially has taken a practice shot, and now can adjust to better his outcome since the physical conditions of the kick hasn’t change.  Your hoping that the best case scenario happens twice, which if kicking FGs were independent, it would be something like a 2% probability of missing twice.

There is a mental element to missing a field goal, much like their is one to making one, but I don’t think that there is a strong relationship between kicking events.  In math world, it’s call the autocorrelation, which is the cross-correlation of a signal with itself.  In field goal kicking/inane time-out  world, the signal is the made/miss on a FG attempt.  It’s saying that if a kicker produces higher than average  success rate (made FG = 100% which is greater than NFL average 84.5%), then if the autocorrelation is high he’s more likely to make the next, and if he misses (made FG = 0%), then he’s more likely to miss the next attempt.  While I can see the autocorrelation being high on made FG attempts, I just don’t think it’s true on missed attempts (how many times have you seen a kicker miss even two in a row in the NFL from the exact same spot?)

If you really want to play a mental game with an opposing kicker, giving him a practice kick is hardly the answer.  I’d call time-out once the kicker got comfortable, but not where he could complete his routine by taking the kick.  Or try something like this legendary inbound play in a high-school basketball game, because it’s all about the element of surprise, and the last-second freeze play isn’t a surprise anymore.


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