The most important player in football is ……… the kicker


Andrew Deal

The kicker is the most important position in football. It’s the closest thing to being an individual scoring opportunity in a sport that is very much team-oriented. On a touchdown, you need at least the quarterback and most likely a receiver or a running back. A lot can go wrong. With a field goal, it’s just the kicker and the uprights, but a lot can still go wrong as history has shown.

The most famous missed field came off the foot of Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills. With time expiring in Super Bowl XXV he had the chance to kick the game winning field goal to win the Bills their first Super Bowl. This kick became known as “Wide Right” when Norwood missed the kick and the Bills lost the game.

More recently, Cody Parkey of the Chicago Bears kicked the “Double Doink ” as time expired in a playoff game against the Phildelphia Eagles. Parkey’s kick hit the upright, went straight down, and hit the crossbar and bounced back into the field.

Gary Anderson is one of the best kickers in NFL history. Anderson entered the 1999 NFC Championship not having missed a field goal all season. The Minnesota Vikings entered that game with the best record in the NFL and were widely regarded as the best team that season.

Anderson had been automatic all season, but then went on to miss a 38-yard field goal that would’ve sent the Vikings to the Super Bowl. One of the best teams of the decade had their season come to an end on a missed field goal by one of the best kickers in NFL history.

The hometown Pittsburgh Steelers have also benefited from some infamous kicks.

In 2006, the #1 Colts faced the #6 Steelers in the AFC playoffs. The Colts were on the verge of completing a comeback from being down 21-18 when they brought on Mike Vanderjagt, known around the league as the most accurate kicker in the NFL, to kick a 46-yarder to tie the game and keep the Colts’ hopes alive. His kick was  “Not even close” according to the announcer and the Steelers went on to win their 5th Super Bowl that year.

They had similar luck the year before in the playoffs.  The Steelers were 15-1, but the Jets had completely outplayed the Steelers in the 2005 AFC Divisional playoff game. Doug Brien had a chance to give the Jets the lead with under two minutes left with a 47-yard field goal. Brien hit the crossbar and the ball bounced back into the field of play. After a Ben Roethlisberger interception, Brien had a chance at redemption with a 43-yard attempt to win the game, but it sailed left of the target. The game went into overtime and the Steelers would win it on a field goal by Jeff Reed.

Some kickers are more known for their makes. Tom Brady would not have seven Super Bowl rings if it wasn’t for the leg of Adam Vinatieri.

2001 was the year of the Tuck Rule. More specifically, the Tuck Rule game vs the Raiders in the snow was the start of Vinatieri’s big kicks. He not only kicked the game tying field goal, but then kicked the game winning field goal to send the Patriots to the AFC Championship game in blizzard-like conditions.

Then, in the Super Bowl, the Rams came back to tie the game at 17. The Patriots got into field goal range for the player who should have been the MVP. From 48 yards out, Vinatieri hit the game winning field goal to win the Super Bowl.

Vinatieri had another big kick in the Super Bowl two years later. The Patriots were back in the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers. As the final seconds expired, Vinatieri hit yet another game winning kick, this one from 41 yards out. The Patriots have 2 of their 6 Super Bowls because of the leg of Adam Vinatieri.

This year’s Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Eagles also came down to a late game field goal. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker kicked a chip shot game winning field goal from 27 yards out.

A lot of big games were won or lost because of a made or missed field goal. No other position in football has an isolated impact as much as the kicker does. The kicker can make or break a team’s game and season.