Does the Kicker Have the Hardest Job in Sports?

Phil Dawson

This post should have been up by Monday morning, but I only just received my publishing privileges. Nonetheless, here’s a tribute to the guys that can leg press about 5000 lbs.

I’m writing this post directly following the Giants 19-17 loss to the Eagles in week four of the NFL Season. With :15 left on the clock, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes’ 54-yard field goal attempt fell a few yards short of the uprights. The short kick was actually his second consecutive miss in one minute as the Eagles tried to “ice” Tynes before he made his first attempt (a stupid tactic that needs to go). The timeout wasn’t necessary as the kick sailed wide-left, but rules are rules and the kick didn’t count.  So after missing what amounted to a practice kick, Tynes was given a shot at redeeming himself. The ball was right down the middle but just a few yards short. Game over.

Conversely, in Atlanta with five seconds left and the Falcons down by 1 against the Panthers, Matt Bryant (now that’s a guy with ice in his veins) nailed a 40-yard field goal to give his team the win, capping a 72-yard drive led by Matt Ryan.

Which leads me to this: Is Kicker the hardest position in sports? I think so. Think of all the factors that go into a successful kick: The long snapper must direct the ball on a hard line to the placeholder who must catch the ball, set it on its end and spin the laces away from the kicker. All the while, offensive lineman are fighting with defenders trying to penetrate or jump over the line in order to block the ball while it’s in the air. Of course, at the same time the kicker is taking two almost-running steps towards the ball and launching it in the air at an angle so as to fly over the linemen with enough power to sail through the uprights. This entire process takes less than 1.5 seconds.

Of course, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. External factors like rain and snow wreak havoc on kickers. Slippery footballs make the process incredibly difficult, not to mention that a soft, muddy ground makes it hard for the kicker to plant his foot and generate power. Once the ball is in the air, wind, rain and snow directly affect the ball’s trajectory and the required distance necessary to earn only three lousy points. Add in the pressure of 80,000 fans screaming at you, a paycheck on the line, dignity at stake (teammates don’t really respect guys who aren’t allowed to be touched) and the entire media and fan base ready to exult in your glory or deprecate you,  and you have one of the world’s most unenviable positions.

On Thursday night Browns kicker Phil Dawson nailed three 50+ yard field goals. Three of them! On the road. In the rain! Absolutely incredible when considering the factors that go into a successful kick. So the next time your team’s kicker comes out and does one of these instead of one of these, cut the guy some slack.

Writer’s note: Looking up clips for this post brought me back to last year’s playoffs. The Ravens werethisclose to going to the Super Bowl. Lee Evans had the game winning TD punched out of his grasp, then Billy Cundiff missed this one to tie. Ouch.

It’s not always the kicker’s fault…

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One Response to Does the Kicker Have the Hardest Job in Sports?

  1. Pingback: Patrick Willis Made Me Cry and it’s Not Because I’m a Quarterback | Sportacalypse

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