The New England Patriots have had two of the best kickers in NFL history on their team. Are kickers becoming more valuable to teams?
For the better part of 22 years, the New England Patriots have only had two different kickers on their team: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Kickers have traditionally been viewed as an underrated commodity in the league, but perhaps now they’re quickly becoming a necessity.
Adam Vinatieri was brought into the New England Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent in 1996. Ever since his arrival in the league, Vinatieri has consistently shown the NFL just how important kickers are to the game. After being a major part of three Super Bowls with the Patriots, Vinatieri joined the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, where he would go on to win another Super Bowl in 2007.
The Patriots then drafted Stephen Gostkowski in 2007, and he has been the only kicker for the team ever since until his recent injury. Just like Vinatieri, Gostkowski is also a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots.
Unfortunately for Gostkowski, he had to undergo season-ending hip surgery for what seems to have been a lingering injury. The Patriots turned to veteran Mike Nugent to kick in place of Gostkowski, but Nugent was released prior to the trade deadline after proving to be unreliable.
The Patriots have brought in two of the best to ever kick in the NFL. Vinatieri (five) and Gostkowski (six) have kicked in a combined 11 Super Bowls, and they are both considered two of the best at their position in NFL history. We usually don’t see many kickers get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I think it’s a safe bet that these two guys will get in (there are currently only three kickers in the Hall of Fame).
Although it’s unknown how long Gostkowski has been dealing with his hip injury, we have seen him miss some very important field goal and extra-point attempts of late. Looking back on it, Gostkowski missed a field goal during Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, as well.
With the way the game is evolving right before our eyes, kickers are becoming more valuable to their teams. We’re seeing more and more teams lose games only because their kickers aren’t able to hit the game-winner. We’re also seeing teams lose games because kickers are missing the extra points and field goal attempts.
It is notable that the NFL has changed the distance of an extra point to 33 yards out. The league wanted to move the extra point attempts back in order to alter the outcome of games. This gives kickers more of a challenge to complete the kick, and adds a more competitive advantage to the sport as well.
In a late fourth quarter battle when a team is down by just one point, the kicker is relied on to make the game-winning kick. We saw that just this past week when the Chicago Bears lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 17-16, mainly because the Bears kicker, Eddie Pineiro, missed the game-winning field goal.
Bill Belichick has repeatedly referred to certain kickers (mainly punters) as “weapons” because a kicker can truly alter the outcome of a game. He is at the forefront of coaches and NFL strategists who put a special emphasis on special teams, kicks, punts, and the importance of field position in determining outcomes for games.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season turns out for kickers. Speaking of, the New England Patriots just signed Nick Folk to take over their kicking duties. It seems the team has more confidence in Folk kicking throughout the playoffs than they do Mike Nugent… we’ll have to see if that confidence is warranted or if it’s misplaced, and hopefully sooner rather than later.