I would never date a kicker. Too flaky.
It’s because of this flakiness though that I never get mad at kickers. How could you? It seems as though their failures are just as out of their control as their successes. If a kicker knocks a 45-yard field goal into the left upright and it bounces off of the right upright, does a “dink donk donk” on the low bar, and sneaks over for three points, he celebrates. If a 58-yard attempt falls a half-inch short, he sulks.
It’s a “points” or “no points” game for kickers. There is no in between. He’s not like a running back who may gain a lot of yards but has a fumbling problem. He’s not like a cornerback who has eight interceptions and 15 touchdowns allowed. The NFL has those in the form of Chris Carson and Marcus Peters type players, guys who can survive because they do some things really good and some things not so good and they aren’t just judged on their failures. But a kicker doesn’t have that opportunity.
Rarely is a kicker retained because he’s “okay” at field goals but phenomenal at kickoffs. There is no argument outside of one question: “Did you make your field goals?”
Or more accurately, “Do you miss your field goals?”
“Are you missing field goals currently?”
Kickers often swing between “good” and “bad” because most kickers are not super special. On Sunday, we saw the NFL’s best kicker — perhaps of all-time — when the Baltimore Ravens came to town with Justin Tucker and as far as I know, the only current head coach in the league who was a special teams coordinator before he took over an entire roster. But most are judged based solely on their streaks and streaks to me are based more on the good and bad luck of life than they are of any indication of what will happen next.
And that’s the most important question to wrestle with for any coach who has to consider releasing his kicker who might simply be in the middle — or the end — of a streak of missed kicks.
The Seattle Seahawks are not going to release Jason Myers after missing from 53 yards in the rain on Sunday, but the truth is that Myers hasn’t seem to be kicking any better in 2019 than he was in 2017 when the Jacksonville Jaguars released him after six games. In the eyes of Pete Carroll, Myers may also not be kicking any better than he did in training camp of 2018 when the Seahawks chose Sebastian Janikowski over him.
And he’s certainly not kicking as well as he did with the New York Jets last season when he went 6-of-7 on kicks beyond 50 yards after Seattle let him go.
Myers is 0-of-2 on kicks beyond 50 now and his attempt on Sunday wasn’t even close. He missed a 48-yarder at home vs the LA Rams that not only kept three points off the board but gave the Rams enough time before half to score. And last week against the Cleveland Browns, he missed a PAT. All told, Myers is kicking about the same as he was when he became a free agent and stayed there until the Jets got desperate (as many teams do every year with kickers, giving these flaky folks plenty of chances to be hot or cold) in 2018.
In 2017, the Jaguars released Jason Myers after 6 games in which he was 0-for-3 on 50+, 17-of-19 on PATs, and had missed 1 kick under 40.— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) October 21, 2019
Through 7 games, Myers is 0-for-2 on 50+, 19-of-20 on PATs, and has missed a 48-yarder vs Rams.
So what does it mean for Seattle? Eh, not much.
The team signed Myers to a four-year, $15.45 million deal with $7 million guaranteed and the guaranteed money per year suggests that Myers will be around through 2020 unless his kicking looks more “dead” than simply being on a bad streak. The Seahawks have $3 million in dead money if they release Myers prior to 2020, which is certainly worse than $0 million (which is the exact amount of million dollars I have in the bank) dead money for a kicker but only prohibitive if your football team has screwed up a lot else.
I don’t think as of yet that John Schneider has screwed up a lot when it comes to the salary cap.
So at this point, I see Myers as a worthy $7 million risk in a world where most kickers are straddling the line between their last release and their next. The most kicks made this season have come from Zane Gonzalez, who was released by the Browns last season and Josh Lambo, who replaced Myers in Jacksonville in 2017 after he himself was released by the Chargers after 2016.
But playing the game of “rotating kickers” could also just as easily land you in a situation like that of Robbie Gould (the San Francisco 49ers kicker is 6-of-13 beyond 29 yards) or Brett Maher (Dallas Cowboys, 4-of-9 beyond 29) or holding out hope for a 47-year-old Adam Vinatieri. The odds of getting Joey Slye (a Carolina Panthers rookie who has shown more leg than Myers this year and is as cheap as they come but is also inconsistent like Myers) are as good maybe as finding yourself saying, “Well, maybe we try Cairo Santos this week.”
(Santos went 0-for-4 in his last game with the Tennessee Titans.)
The Seahawks took a $7 million shot at a Pro Bowl kicker who they had considerable knowledge on already. Through seven games they haven’t even asked him to do much and the sample size of 11 attempts is not enough for a reasonable, logical person to make a final evaluation on the success of his signing. If the process is what bothers you, then we may simply disagree on the proper process for solidifying one of the few positions in football that is judged solely on the one thing you’re asked to do.
When anyone is asked to do any one thing consistently, without any margin for improvement in other areas to help your case, you may certainly wind up with volatile results. That’s what we tend to see from kickers: volatility, inconsistency, and flakiness. For all we know, Myers could go 15-of-15 in the next nine games. The team may need him more and he may find himself getting the right kind of luck on a number of kicks beyond 50. There’s a greater chance of that happening as there is of Seattle signing one of the many free agent kickers today and having them go 15-of-15 in the next nine games.
That’s what they paid $7 million for. In context, Myers is the 15th-highest paid kicker in 2019. Before any deals are signed next year, he’s the 10th-highest paid kicker in 2020. Gould, by the way, is the 2nd-highest paid, tied with Justin Tucker at $5.1 million. (Stephen Gostkowski, injured, is set at $5.2 million.)
If it goes right the rest of the way, then there’s little room to complain. If it doesn’t, then there’s little in the way of collateral damage to worry about.
And if there’s one thing worse than flakiness, it’s baggage. I don’t see as much baggage here as someone else might.