The NFL extra point and field goal kicker is one of the most overlooked positions in the league.
Even in high school football, recruiters generally don't fill the position until a week prior to their first game, and, in most cases, the kicker is a player they grab from the soccer team.
The only rare case in our era that we saw a field goal kicker valued high, was when "crazy" Al Davis drafted Sebastian Janikowkski 17th overall to the Oakland Raiders in the 1st round of the 2000 draft. To his credit though, Seabass is still doing work in that role today.
However, as overlooked as the position is, it can have the biggest impact in the outcome of game. Despite what was accomplished the first three quarters, a missed or made field goal can make or break a season. This impact has sparked a debate about how important kickers can and can't be, and if a three-point kick should be allowed to decide the fate of games late in the 4th quarter or, especially, in overtime.
Take yourself back to February 3rd, 2002—Super Bowl XXXVI. You remember the scene: Kurt Warner in his prime, a young Marshall Faulk breaking out in the run game, an underrated Tom Brady, and a Louisiana super dome built for gladiators. It was one of the most exciting Super Bowls I can remember. That is, until only a few seconds remained on the clock in the 4th quarter, and, from 48 yards out, Adam Vinatieri kicked the biggest field goal of his life to secure the Patriots first Super Bowl (20-17) victory, in what is now the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.
From that moment on, I despised kicking to win games.
How can a game so exciting be decided by a player most people didn't even know the name of?
That's not only including part-time, Super Bowl-only watching fans—many long-time fans of the game had to watch SportsCenter to see who this guy was. Obviously this isn't the first time it's happened, and wasn't to be the last.
Two years later, in Super Bowl XXVIII, Adam Vinatieri again decided the fate against the gun-slinging Jake Delhomme and the Panthers, by kicking a field goal late in the 4th quarter to lift New England to another Super Bowl victory (32-29).
It's only happened four times in Super Bowl history, that a three point kick decided the fate of a game, but it's four times too many. One could argue maybe change the rule for this particular game, but the entire season is like a playoff. (More after the jump…)
At least for the last two minutes in the 4th quarter, three point field goals should not be allowed to win games. In doing this, it allows much more flexibility in play calling. For instance, you don't have to get a first down past the 50 yard line in less then 4 downs. Now, because of the rule change, you have an extra down to get there. This also helps opposing defenses, in that it's no longer worrisome if the game is tied—you're on the 45 yard line on 4th down and your kicker doesn't have the leg to get that far. If you miss the 1st down conversion, the other teams offense has to abide by the same rules and score a touchdown on the other side, not just a kick.
It makes for a much more exciting game, and I'm not the only one who thinks so here.
Love or hate ESPN First Take's Skip Bayless, he has more honesty flowing from his mouth than most people would like to believe. The only difference in our views, is that he wants to eliminate kicking altogether.
"…I have long proposed a change that will never, ever happen because it makes too much sense. Give place-kicking the boot. That's right, eliminate it. Force supremely talented offensive players to keep doing what they do best: Make first downs."
I couldn't agree more. Aside of not actually eliminating the kick, but rather, take it's importance down a peg by eliminating the ability to win a game with it in under two minutes in the 4th quarter and beyond that time. Winning games in that fashion is just ludacris, and you can't help but feel a little cheated if you're on the other side of that kick.
Even from the quarterbacks point of view, it has to be disheartening to watch a (usually) unathletic guy—that just has a big leg—decide the fate of a game you just battled your life in.
Look at the heartbreak kid, Kellen Moore. No one has ever put up the numbers he did at Boise State, (1157 career completions good for a 69.8 percentage, 14,667 yards, 142 touchdowns to 28 interceptions) in fact, he was damn near perfect in four straight years with the Broncos. Yet, in a twist of fate, two years in a row a late 4th quarter kick, that he obviously had nothing to do, with crushed his Heisman and National Title dreams.
In 2010, Kyle Brotzman missed a field goal twice—once at the end of regulation and again in overtime—to lose to then unranked Nevada (34-31), dropping Boise State out of National Title contention.
The same result happened in 2011, when Boise's Dan Goodale lined up for the game winner with three seconds remaining against the Horned Frogs of TCU. Granted, Freshmen QB Casey Pachall probably played the game of his life that day (throwing for 473 yards and 5 TD's), and he could easily be a future Heisman winner. But I remember watching this game live and remember thinking there was no way head coach Chris Petersen was going to leave the game in the hands of his kicker again, but he did. And Goodale shanked the ball wide right, losing the game 36-35. Kellen Moore only had three losses in his entire career there, all separate years, all decided by kicks.
It's infuriating to watch. It's hard enough as it is, swimming through the corrupt BCS to obtain even a glimmer of hope to be in the National Title game, and having to rely on a guy that you probably don't even know the name of, to win the game, makes it that much worse.
There is a simple solution: Get rid of late 4th quarter kicks to seal a win.
Had Moore been able to rely on his arm instead of someone else, that outcome certainly could have been different for the Broncos and Moore, all three seasons. It's bad enough in the 4th quarter that a kick can decide the game, but in overtime rules, it's especially worse. A decent kickoff return followed by a few 5-15 yard completions, basically won that team the game. Because of the rule stating, first team to score wins. How unexciting. There were times when watching a game that went into overtime that I just turned off after the coin toss. It's gotten to that point.
Understandably the kick still has to be made, and that's difficult in itself with a crowd of 50,000 screaming in your ear, but, to me, it's just the easy way out. And if I were a quarterback of that caliber, I would want the game in my hands, not in someone else's leg.
The game of football has been played for a very long time. And when something has been done a certain way for a very long time, tradition is often hard to break, regardless if it'd be for the better or not. In this case, eliminating three-point kicks in under two minutes in the 4th quarter, and beyond, would only benefit the game in unimaginable ways. No longer would offenses, defenses, and fans have to stand on the sidelines and watch the game come down to a player they see for a total of 30 seconds a game. He wasn't out there every down grinding, hitting, sweating, and bleeding, so why should he have the opportunity to seal the game and sometimes seasons' fates, in one damn play?
Simple solution: Eliminate it.