Struggles for NFL Kickers Last Season

by Tommy Redington
Class of 2016

In the past decades of football, the extra point has been the most converted play in the game, allowing for an extra point to be added to the six point score virtually every time an offense scored a touchdown. Two football seasons ago before the alteration of this play, on average, NFL kickers made “over 99 percent” of extra point attempts, delineating the ease of this kick (Sherman). However, last football season, the 2015-2016 season, the extra point was moved back, changing the 19 yard attempt, into a 32 yard attempted kick. Although this distance change does facilitate more concentration for the kicker, the movement of the extra point in no way should have any impact on other field goals attempted by these kickers.

One may argue that kickers are not to blame in this situation. Analysts argue that kicking an extra point that is 13 yards further than they are accustomed to makes the kickers job “much more stressful”, in essence, more missed field goals. These extra points are no longer automatic points for these kickers, and as Jay Feely, the kicker for the New Orleans Saints describes, “there’s pressure…you can’t take that in-game practice [kick].” By no longer having the self-confidence to make the extra point easily every time, the kickers are more stressed when attempting all their other kicks; contributing to the many more missed field goals that occurred last football season year, than in previous years.

Although it is not erroneous to state that the extra point now requires more focus and concentration to make, beginning last season, it is inaccurate to proclaim this the reason for other missed field goals. During last season, the percentage of field goals made proved to be one of the worst ever in NFL history; many declaring the movement of the extra point back the reason for this drastic decline. The extra point is still an extremely makeable kick, and kickers “should still hit [them] with ease.” Kickers on average “hit 95.3 percent of field goal attempts from 30-35 yards”; demonstrating the distance of the kick is no issue for kickers of this caliber. The extra point and other field goals have no correlation with each other as they are completely different plays, not impacting each other in the slightest.

In the first week of last year’s season, Josh Scobee, the kicker of the Pittsburgh Steelers butchered two close range field goals that should have been converted. Kickers appear to be feeding into the talk that the longer extra point is causing more and more missed field goals and they must tune this out as there is no correlation. It seems as one kicker misses a field goal, more kickers start missing their own kicks. It is quite possible that these kickers are picking up bad habits by watching other professionals in their actions. It might be beneficial for kickers not to watch other kickers and simply focus on the fundamentals such as their form to improve their own numbers and consistency in making field goals.

One of football’s most accurate kickers, Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots, who as of last season holds the record for most consecutive made extra points with 423, missed an extra point which proved to be costly as the Patriots were forced to go for a two point conversion in the final seconds in attempts to tie the game. The Patriots were unsuccessful and lost the game. When asked about missing the kick Gostkowski explained that it had nothing to do with the distance but with the “feel” of the kick. Even the best kickers in the game miss these easy kicks, but as Gostkowski can attest, it is not so much the distance and the extra point being moved back; sometimes kickers just do not convert.

Kickers must revert back to the basics and keep practicing in order to successfully convert these makeable kicks they are missing. Stress from the extra point has nothing to do with all the current missed field goals by these kickers. Practicing form and working with coaches is the only way for kickers to get back on track, making field goals. It is imperative that kickers silence the rational of longer extra points relating to missed field goals, in order to convert more of their kicks.

Tommy Redington is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition