The Most Overlooked Man in the Game
~ Amy Lignor
Yes, Peyton Manning is touted as a god. 500 career passes (and counting). Best of the best…yada, yada, yada. And, yes, he deserves accolades. However, there is one position in the NFL that also gets glory but also gets trashed beyond belief, feeling a lot like Geno Smith I would assume on their bad days. And, the worst part is, their glory is short-lived. Even when winning the game because of their awesome leg, the kicker is basically overshadowed by the QB or a tight end or somebody, for making sure they stayed the course in order for the kicker to do what they are supposed to do. The guy gets patted on the back and…game over, headline not even made most of the time. Odd part is, the rest of the offense sometimes doesn’t do all that well and the kicker sees himself having to make a 60-yarder for the win…which then is looked down upon if he doesn’t make absolute magic.
No, this is not an overstatement. Look at some recent ones: Fifty-eight yards is how far Dan Carpenter had to kick that field-goal-winning ball for the Buffalo Bills to knock over the Detroit Lions, 17-14. Carpenter was a hero…for a bit. While Detroit’s kicker went down in flames because he missed a 50-yarder that would have given the Lions the lead. This was his third failure of the day, which means he was the one with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Now, yes, that is their job – to make the field goal. However, when they do make it…shouldn’t they get the podium to speak just like the brilliant QB (who actually couldn’t get their team out of the situation and relied on the kicker to save their behind in the headlines?)
Another recent one came in the ‘Battle of Texas’. This was a game that the Cowboys had hands-down going into the locker room at halftime. Romo and his team were brilliant, forcing the Texans to their knees. It was brilliant…oops…the Texans have a team, and they decided to come back and tie the game. Bailey, Cowboys kicker who never misses, kicks the 53-yrd field goal to end the game in regular time and…no good! Overtime. Now, in this game, for just the briefest of moments, the kicker was sensing that he would see his car in the parking lot spray-painted by an angry fan. BUT…oops…he comes back and in overtime kicks the 49-yarder to win, erasing the bad play and being the hero…for a few seconds only before the QB hits the podium and talks about how great everyone else was without mentioning the kicker.
These are men who can do their jobs, and do them well. No, they are not out on the field the whole game getting hit, punched down, beat into the ground, etcetera. However, they are the faces behind some of the most brilliant wins that could very well have been losses that fans should recognize. There are brilliant ones playing the game today, and brilliant names that should be remembered for a long time to come.
Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys is one of them. Bailey made 6 field goals in a game his rookie season, and has made close to 90% of his field goal attempts from then on out.
Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots, is actually a name that IS mentioned a great deal, being the most accurate kicker in all of Patriots history. Although Gostkowski attended two Super Bowls (that were losses), he also attended a Pro Bowl and became an All-Pro selection in 2008.
Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings is showing something to everyone; being only in his second season, he has been more than impressive by providing made field goals in over 90% of his attempts.
But when you’re talking ‘godlike’ as you do with Manning all the time when QB’s are being squawked about, it is the name of Adam Vinatieri that brings awe to most all kickers who look up to the guy. Although older and not showing the best stats of his career as time rolls forward (a lot like QB’s, by the way), Vinatieri can STILL claim four Super Bowl rings, and has kicked in six championship games. He is a member of the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team, and has been nominated to 2 All-Pro teams and 2 Pro Bowls.
So, just remember as you stand and cheer for the ‘big names’ out there who are in all the ads, as well as the scandals, it is the somehow overlooked field goal kicker that deserves some of your praise. These are a small group of guys that are responsible for some of the greatest wins in NFL history!