The Lonesome Kicker: What Is Going On With NFL Kickers?

10/06/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Two minutes left in the game. Your team is down by 1 point. The offense starts to move the ball. Before you know it they have it at midfield. :30 seconds left on the clock and they're in field goal range at the 25. Coach uses the last time out. Here comes the field goal unit for the win. And the kick is....NO GOOD!!!
How many times has that happened this year so far in the NFL? If you were in Pittsburgh on Thursday or in Jacksonville or New Orleans on Sunday, you felt the above scenario play out in some way. Josh Scobee missed 2 field goals in the Steelers overtime loss to Baltimore. He had missed 2 more in their season opening loss to New England. He won't miss another one in a Steelers uniform though, because Scobee was released.
It was just as bad for the Jaguars, or maybe worse. With :06 seconds left in regulation, Jason Myers missed a 53 yard field goal that would've given Jacksonville the win. But Indianapolis called timeout prior to the kick, so he got a do over on the miss. And missed again. Then missed from 48 yards in overtime. And then the Colts won on their next possession.

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In New Orleans, Drew Brees drove the Saints downfield for a chance to win the game as regulation expired. But Zach Hocker missed a 30 yard field goal. Luckily, Brees and the Saints won the game in OT.
So what's the deal here? How come kickers suddenly can't kick? Myers and Hocker are first year players, but Scobee is a 12 year veteran who is actually the Jacksonville franchises all time leading scorer. Is it the new extra point distance in the NFL? Does the fact that a kicker doesn't have the almost always automatic extra point anymore make it harder to kick field goals? Perhaps that does hold some truth. A kicker could kind of get warmed up hitting a couple of easy PAT's before having to try a long field goal. But now that the extra point is from 33 yards out, that automatic kick isn't so automatic anymore. And if a kicker misses what is expected to be an easy extra point, does it cause him to lose enough confidence to be shaken when it comes time to try a field goal?
Another theory is that a lot of kickers in the NFL don't have the experience. Many teams in recent years have gone with a younger kicker over a veteran because the younger guy was the cheaper option. But these younger kickers haven't experienced the pressure of making a game winning kick that a veteran kicker has. And with the game on the line, especially if he already missed a field goal, he doesn't have the nerves or mental toughness to make that kick.
Whatever the case may be, if you're a team with a reliable kicker, you should be very happy so far this season. Because with the NFL's change on the extra points and what seems like so many missed important kicks, the kicker is no longer just the last guy on the bench. Being the kicker is actually important. And I think NFL teams will start looking at them that way and not as just the last roster spot anymore.

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