We’ve all heard the argument from people in pubs. They’re completely adamant they could be an NFL kicker because it’s “just kicking the ball straight”. Sorry to interrupt the banter era, but it’s time to debunk the biggest sporting myths.
This comes to prominence after one of the worst weeks in NFL kicking history.
Auburn’s Daniel Carlson led the trend in below-average placekicking by failing not once but twice to land the Vikings a huge win over their division rivals Green Bay.
As the Vikes looked set to take the W in overtime on two separate occasions, Carlson whipped up that old debate about whether or not kicking a ball through two posts is sport’s most overhyped piece of skill.
First, he cut a 49-yarder wide. Excusable, maybe.
Then, with the final play of the game and an assured victory should he succeed, the 23-year-old fluffed his lines on a 35-yard attempt.
Accept this much: your uncle, trying way too hard to impress your teenage friends, could not kick in the NFL. If you can accept that much, maybe we can proceed with the discussion.
There’s far more to an NFL kick than you think. It’s not simply someone kicking a ball off a tee on a training ground.
Using rugby as an example – the distances between the posts are the exact same: 5.6 metres. That almost makes them comparable.
Except it doesn’t.
You don’t have someone seven yards away snapping the ball between their legs while simultaneously trying to fend off a 300lb man intent on blocking that kick.
You don’t have someone responsible for catching that sometimes-wayward delivery, getting down to clamp the ball between his finger and the oft-wet turf.
You don’t have the possibility of the opposition head coach taking a timeout just before the kick, meaning that your intense focus was for null.
Now factor in how many millions of people are watching you. Factor in the entire stadium’s effort to put you off if you’re a visiting team.
Factor in the diverse array of weather conditions across the 32 locations in which football is played.
On top of all that, the clichés and the undermining of the skill of placekicking adds further pressure to the situation. It’s the same thing as seeing a goalkeeper’s mistakes highlighted as they’re usually the only ones to blame for a given error.
The value of kickers fluctuates and the only tangible trait that scouts can assess while you’re in college is the power in your leg and the eventual ball placement within the posts.
It comes down to calmness – an ability to perform under pressure.
Consistency is important, but NFL scenarios are so different to collegiate sports that it’s truly incomparable.
You’ve got 52 friends and a coaching staff as well as millions of fans completely zoned in on your isolated moment.
It’s hard to put a value on that when it comes to drafting. Roberto Aguayo was taken in just the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s currently jobless.
The majority of successful kickers in the NFL went undrafted.
The injustice that they’re undervalued and over-criticised should not be lost on people. Setting up for a game-winning field goal is one of the loneliest moments in sport.
If you succeed – you’ve just done your job and you’re only a kicker.
If you fail – pandemonium.
The repuatation of NFL kickers can plummet as quickly as any sportsperson on the planet.