The Leadoff: How to fix kickers

About once a year I get to my breaking point with kickers in the NFL. Surprisingly, after watching one eliminate the Chicago Bears, who I hate, in the most brutal double-doink fashion, I reached this moment Sunday night but not after I sent my fair share of gifs in group chats to members of my family, who are all Bears fans.

Sunday’s game was amazing, it was equal parts slobber knocker and artistry and just further reminded me of some of the weird things we have accepted in the sports. I have written on this before, not because I lost the biggest rivalry game in my high school career to a missed extra point nor because I lost a junior college game due to an opposing kicker hitting a 63-yarder as time expired, but because the idea of trotting out a soccer player to decide a game where men are literally sacrificing their bodies just seems completely crazy to me.

Why should Khalil Mack’s season, a guy who sacked the quarterback more times than the entire Oakland Raiders organization without even playing a full 16-game season, be decided by a soccer player in a football game.

It makes about as much sense as each team having a designated player solely to perform in a talent show and honestly, I think that would be better. Imagine, fourth-down-and-four with 3 seconds left on the clock, tie game, and out walks a player from each team to have a lipsync battle at midfield. Winner of the lipsync battle, hell lets ratchet it up a notch and actually have them sing, gets the point and wins the game.

This might sound preposterous but it makes about as much sense as having a kicker come out, and at least my idea was entertaining. After all, this is just entertainment, what if each team’s kicker had to win a talent show instead of kick a weird shaped ball through a yellow oversized fork.

Imagining a talent show breaking out to decide an NFL game is actually the most delightful idea I've ever had and it raises some questions. Maybe we keep the kickers but they become the designated “talent act” and each week the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell grabs a random talent out of a hat that will be this week’s competition. Should each team be required to keep the same kicker for the entire season? I’d like that, make all these so-called “draft experts” that ask players things like “what would a janitor at your school say if I asked him about you?” in pre-draft meetings start following around circus performers and see what kind of questions they come up with.

Who judges the talent show? Do former players get involved like with the dunk contests in the NBA or maybe a panel of former officials because for some reason we continue to think their opinions matter. Can you imagine Warren Sapp, Randy Moss and Jeff Garcia judging two dudes riding unicycles and juggling eggs!? That is a show all by itself.

On a serious note, this all makes about as much sense as needing to kick a ball through two uprights in a game that is played by men smashing into each other as hard as they can.

What the Chicago versus Philadelphia game, as well as all the games on Wildcard weekend except the Colts against the Texans, really showed is that, “wins” is really an imperfect way to gauge which teams are really better.

Football is so random and so stupid, if that ball isn’t tipped and doesn’t double bounce off the uprights then the narrative is completely different. Does anyone actually believe that the Eagles are appreciably better than the Bears? If those teams played 10 times, or if the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks played 10 times, nearly all the games would be like that and a caught interception here and a tipped pass there would be the difference.

If the Bears win that game the discussion on Monday would have been about Mitch Trubusky’s statement win. Is the Bears defense good enough to carry them to the Superbowl? Is Vic Fangio the most underrated coach in the NFL? Instead, here we are talking about Nick Foles potentially in the Hall of Fame.

As much as coaches and fans want to believe, winning close games really isn’t a skill. Sure the details matter and execution surely helps, but at the end of the day sometimes its just dumb luck and if we’re just hoping on luck, we might as well make it much more entertaining than a field goal.


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