Welcome to Bad Takes Week, where MMQB staffers have been asked to expand upon some of their worst football takes. These are columns on the ideas they believe in strongly, even if it makes the rest of the room groan during our pitch meetings. Keep an eye out for more of these throughout the week.
Every time a game is decided by a last-second field goal—make or miss—I revert back to my worst take. I know this would never realistically happen, but I always argue with my dad about it and now share it for The MMQB’s Bad Takes Week: Kickers have no place in football.
I think most football fans are just so conditioned to accept kicking as part of the game that they never give it a second thought. But really: Why, in a game built on throwing, catching and tackling, does a random player who has nothing athletically in common with the rest of his teammates have such an outsized chance to determine the outcome of a game?
Even NFL head coaches admit they have no idea what they are looking for in a kicker. Here’s Chicago head coach Matt Nagy in my recent report from Bears minicamp on whether or not he can evaluate kickers: “Zero shot. I just know you either make it, or you miss it. That’s what I work off of.”
Any NFL head coach could probably tell you everything about every position on the field except for one: kickers. That’s proof enough that they don’t belong in today’s game.
As a descendant of rugby, the sport of football inherited the kicking game. In the late 1800s, the earliest days of the new sport, there were two ways to score: running the ball over the goal line and touching it down to the ground (a touchdown) or kicking it through the uprights. In 1906, the forward pass became an official part of the game, which created a whole new aspect of the offense and led to the eventual creation of the offenses we know today.
This past season was the most prolific offensive year the NFL has ever seen. Teams combined to score 1,371 total touchdowns, the most in a single season, and 847 of them were passing touchdowns, also a single-season high. The 11,952 total points scored in 2018 were the second-most in league history.
Now that the passing game is such a dominant part of today’s NFL, and offenses are scoring at such an explosive pace, do we really still need kicking to present another way to score? Kicking is so much less relevant now than it was in the days when the passing game was in its infancy.
I know that kicking is not easy. It’s really, really hard. A Chicago brewery challenged Bears fans to attempt Parkey’s 43-yard field goal—without timing it to the snap or worrying about a defensive line of leaping giants—and not a single fan of the 100 who tried even came close. (Including me.) The job is so specific and repetitive that it’s hardly even the kicker’s fault that they sometimes get the yips and miss an extra point, or as in otherwise solid Packers kicker Mason Crosby’s case last year: FOUR missed field goals and a missed extra point in one game. Their job is specialized to a fault. They don’t have to learn three different responsibilities on the same play or adapt their game plan each week for a different opponent. All they do is repeat the exact same task: Three steps back, two steps to the left, approach and kick.
And kicking just can’t be good for building team culture. Imagine being an offensive lineman, out there battling defensive linemen chest-to-chest, expending every ounce of your energy to win your matchups, and then your kicker, who has yet to break a sweat, goes out and misses an extra point. How can you not just hate that kicker? How do you fake smile at that kicker and give a nice quote to the media about how you’ve got his back?
Last season, 73 games were decided by three points or fewer, the most ever in one season. That’s 25.8 percent of games. The margin of victory in the NFL is shrinking, and kickers have had way too much responsibility in closing out games. Instead of extra points, every team should go for two. Instead of field goals, punt or go for it on fourth down. Punters can stay. I like punters and swinging field position is still an integral part of the game. Sure, I agree with the t-shirts that say, Kickers are People Too, but they just aren’t the type of people that belong on a football field.
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