Many years ago a sportswriter asked the Lou Groza from the Cleveland Browns how rough it was to place kick and play offensive tackle. Let’s remember that for ten years Groza was one of the NFL top lineman. LG thought it was great. If Groza missed a kick, he had to play all the better in both pass and run blocking. This was a tremendous incentive and his play got even better than the coaches expected. Sadly this is not the case today. A place kicker has not been at another position for almost 40 years. Huge crowds are cheering and the pressure is often unbearable. One bad game or even one bad kick and team releases him. Fred Ackers, until the 2011, did very well and could stand the tension. The story is just is a state of mind.
Let’s look at Paul McFadden, whom the Philadelphia Eagles drafted for the 1984 season. McFadden set an Eagles single season scoring record and was the the NFL Rookie of the year. His excellent placekicking continued with one notable exception in 1985. The dud was at Veterans Stadium against the New York Giants. With the score tied at 10 late in the game, Paul McFadden missed a 42 yard field goal attempt. The Eagles lost 16 to 10 in overtime. In 1986 came a real downturn. McFadden missed short fields at home in the following losses:
17 to 14-New York Giants
17 to 14-Dallas Cowboys
21 to 14-Washington Redskins
I will discuss the last game later. By 1987, McFadden’s kicks were going all over the place and the Eagles released him after the season. The only thing comparable to a place kicker in football is a pinch hitter in baseball. The pinch hitter has not played in the game. His timing may be off and it is in a situation where the team really needs a hit. Pressure though is the key problem with place kickers. The story of Paul McFadden gets repeated many times in the NFL.