Kickers Get NFL Teams Into Trouble: The Cardinals To Be Exact
My routine on the internet includes a look at all the major league sites: NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. Well, that usually produces a funny look from me and a minor story idea. However, some days the story ideas are pretty major. Today is one of those days.
Here’s the headline amongst the other headlines on NFL.com:
Cardinals agree to terms with Feely; Rackers out as Kicker.
I know that if you’re a casual sports fan you might not find the signing of a kicker very interesting. I know who Jay Feely is and I know who Neil Rackers is. I also know that every time there’s “kicker movement” some NFL gets itself into trouble.
I know that the Cardinals should be much more concerned with the retirement of Kurt Warner and the Anquan Boldin trade. I know that they should be worried about shoring up their weak defense. I know they have issues.
But the release of Neil Rackers and the signing of Jay Feely will likely serve as a cautionary tale for other teams. I know who these two guys are and the Cardinals are about to be in trouble.
What Did Neil Rackers Ever Do To You?
Neil Rackers wasn’t the greatest kicker in the history of the league, but he’s very good. For his career he’s made 78% of his Field Goal attempts. That’s not bad considering some of those are surely blocks–not his fault–and he spent 8 seasons playing for crappy Bengals and Cardinals teams.
Rackers never sank his team and he never “lost” a game. Yes, it would have been nice of him to make the Field Goal at the end of regulation in the Wild Card Game this year. Oh well. The Cards won the game anyways on a fluke play.
Just this season he hit 94% of his Field Goals and only missed one extra-point. Surely his performance this season was not a deciding factor in his release. So, what is it?
It’s that “The Grass Is Greener” syndrome that I talked about last week. Teams think that a guy’s getting old and they need someone new. Familiarity breeds contempt and the team wants to move on.
I can almost understand that. If a dude–like Rackers–is 33 and you want some “young blood” I can handle that. Rackers will land on his feet and the team gets what it wants.
What I can’t handle is the “syndrome”. It makes teams do things they’ll regret later. The Cardinals did just that.
They signed Jay Feely.
Jay Feely Is Not Who You Think He Is
Jay Feely landed with the Falcons in 2001 to have the privilege of playing on crappy teams just like Rackers. Feely, however, had the privilege of going to the NFC Title Game in 2004 with the Falcons. Then he kicked for wretched 2007 Dolphins. Then some good Giants teams.
This past season he was with the Jets–one of the best teams in the league. Yes, he’s hit 81.6% of his Field Goals, but last season he only hit 83.3%. Oh, and he’s 33.
So, he’s the same age as Rackers, he has less NFL experience, and he had a worse season last year. But the Cards are letting Rackers go to get him.
Do we see how this is bothersome? The Cards are assuming–stupidly–that because Feely was with the Jets last year that he’ll somehow bring that “winningness” to Arizona.
Kickers don’t work that way. They come out and kick the ball and go sit back on the bench. Continuity is more important in this case. The Jets shouldn’t have let Feely go, and the Cards shouldn’t have signed him.
Both of those teams need continuity and now they will both get into trouble by changing around their kickers. Both teams are fixing something that ain’t broken.
How Does That Equal Trouble?
I remember quite distinctly two kicking moves of the past decade.
1. Mike Vanderjagt to the Cowboys from Indy.
2. Adam Vinatieri to the Colts from the Patriots.
The Cowboys took on Vanderjagt because everyone was playing up his athleticism. He played Quarterback in High School and College and that made him the “sexy” kicker in the NFL.
Vinatieri only won 3 Super Bowls for the Patriots. He could have been elected Governor of Massachusetts after the 2004 Super Bowl. He was a Northeastern hero.
The Patriots let Vinatieri go because they aren’t loyal to anybody. They haven’t won a championship since. Kickers don’t equal titles, but Adam Vinatieri equalled confidence.
The Patriots still don’t have it. They took a 4th and 2 against Indy this past season and botched it–because their confidence left with Vinatieri.
The Cowboys continued their streak of losing playoff games and they cut Vanderjagt loose after one season.
That is trouble. Big trouble.
Will the Cards and Jets end up in trouble? Most likely, yes. I like the Jets to go to the Super Bowl next year, but you saw what happened when New England and Dallas screwed around at Kicker.
This does not inspire any confidence in me.