Matt Gay Making Strong Case to Break Bucs' Kicking Curse

J. Kanno

The word "kicker" can draw out a long sigh in Tampa Bay. In 10 years, the Buccaneers have cycled through nine kickers, some multiple times. Matt Gay is the latest in the long, sordid saga of missed uprights, and he could finally put the Bucs' kicking woes in the past.

Tampa Bay once had a good thing going with K Matt Bryant, who made 83.1 percent of his field goals as the Bucs kicker. Then, in 2009 the Bucs usher in "The Curse" by cutting Matt Bryant for Mike Nugent, setting in motion a carousel of inconsistent to downright terrible kickers. 

And Bryant's field goal average since he was cut? 87.5 percent. The Bucs' average since Bryant? 78.3 percent, an average boosted by Matt Gay's impressive rookie season. 

This season, Gay has made 88.9 percent of his field goals, eighth-best in the NFL. This particularly impressive as he has also attempted sixth-most field goals of any kicker and has scored 98 total points, fifth-most among kickers.

Where Gay falls short is extra points, where is among the league's worst. He is currently 34 for 39, fifth-worst in the league. However, Gay's extra point woes were confined to two games, Week 2 against the Giants and Week 12 against the Falcons. 

The three(!) extra points Gay missed in Atlanta did not end up affecting the final outcome as the Bucs won by double digits anyways. The Giants game is another matter.

Gay missed an extra point and a field goal and had another extra point blocked in Week 2 where the Bucs lost 31-32. Any of one kick would have drastically changed the outcome of the game. While Gay did make four other field goals and cannot be held responsible for the defense allowing rookie QB Daniel Jones to look like Drew Brees for an afternoon, Gay was drafted to prevent a loss from getting hung on the kicking game.

Two bad games aside, Gay has been the model of reliability, something that cannot be said of his predecessors. Though he still has a few games left in the season, Gay is currently the Bucs' second-most accurate field goal kicker of the decade. Only Connor Barth had a better single season in 2011 when he made 92.9 percent of his field goals, though his Bucs career average (83.3 percent) is lower than Gay's, brief though it is.

Bucs kicking stats, by season, 2010-2019

Player
Year
Games
FG Made
FG Attempts
FG Percent
XP Made
XP Attempts
XP Percent

Connor Barth

2010

16

23

28

82.1

36

36

100

Connor Barth

2011

16

26

28

92.9

23

23

100

Connor Barth

2012

15

28

33

84.8

39

39

100

Rian Lindell

2013

16

23

29

79.3

31

31

100

Patrick Murray

2014

16

20

24

83.3

31

31

100

Kyle Brindza

2015

4

6

12

50

6

8

75

Connor Barth

2015

12

23

28

82.1

25

26

96.2

Roberto Aguayo

2016

16

22

31

71

32

34

94.1

Nick Folk

2017

4

6

11

54.5

7

9

77.8

Patrick Murray

2017

12

19

23

82.6

21

22

95.5

Chandler Catanzaro

2018

9

11

15

73.3

23

27

85.2

Cairo Santos

2018

7

9

12

75

17

17

100

Matt Gay

2019

13

24

27

89.9

34

39

87.2

Gay is light years better than the Bucs' previous draft pick at the position this decade, 2016 second-round pick Roberto Aguayo. In his one and only season with the Bucs, Aguayo made just 71 percent of his field goals, by far the worst of any kicker during the 2016 season.

Still, Gay's superior performance is little more than a rebuke against the Bucs' extravagant draft spending rather than a paragon for drafting kickers in the first place. Of this year's top ten most accurate field goal kickers, half were undrafted including the top two kickers, Josh Lambo and Justin Tucker.

NFL top-10 kickers, 2019 season (10 games minimum)

Player
Draft Round
Games
FG Made
FG Attempts
FG Percent
XP Made
XP Attempts
XP Percent

Josh Lambo

Undrafted

13

26

27

96.3

14

15

93.3

Justin Tucker

Undrafted

13

23

24

95.8

47

48

97.9

Mason Crosby

Round 6

13

16

17

94.1

35

35

100

Chris Boswell

Undrafted

13

26

28

92.9

25

25

100

Dan Bailey

Undrafted

13

18

20

90

35

38

92.1

Jake Elliot

Round 5

13

18

20

90

25

27

92.6

Zane Gonzalez

Round 7

13

27

30

90

23

24

95.8

Matt Gay

Round 5

13

24

27

88.9

34

39

87.2

Austin Seibert

Round 5

13

22

25

88

25

28

89.3

Wil Lutz

Undrafted

13

29

33

87.9

33

34

97.1

If Gay maintains his field goal average, there is little doubt he will be back as the Bucs placekicker next season. While there will be expectation for improvement in his extra point success rate, overall, there is reason to hope the Bucs have found a remedy to their kicking curse.

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