East Coast Offense: The Golden Era Of Kickers

East Coast Offense: The Golden Era Of Kickers

This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.

The Golden Era Of Kickers

I've often wondered whether say an ordinary running back like Melvin Gordon or Latavius Murray would be a Hall of Famer were he to time travel back to the 1970s. Whether Andy Dalton or Jared Goff would be better than Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach. It's a hard question to answer because the rules were different, the style of play even more different and Dalton would be throwing to Drew Pearson, Tony Hill and Billy Joe DuPree instead of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. (And the former were above average weapons back then.)

But one question that's not hard is how virtually any modern kicker would fare back in the day – he'd be in the Hall of Fame. The thought occurred to me because every week I marvel at a random guy drilling 55-yarders down the middle like it's no big deal, something that would have been borderline miraculous even 20 years ago. For example, Graham Gano, who was freely available this offseason, made field goals of 55, 54 and 50, for the Giants this week. 

To put some numbers on how much kicking has improved over the decades, I went to Pro Football Reference and looked up both the overall percentage of field-goals made in one year of each decade, and also the number of 50-yarders attempted and made. 

The difference between eras was even more stark than I had expected:

YearOverall FG%FGA 50+FGM 50+
197059.47317
198063.68023
199074.47828
200079.76838
201082.410859
202086.25133
2020 (prorated)86.2163105

My first thought was, "Why would they even attempt a 50-yarder before 2000?" but I'm sure the majority of them were in the closing seconds of a half or at the end of games. My next was to consider how bad the overall percentages were even though on average those kicks were from much shorter distances. Even the 50-plus stats don't entirely tell the tale with modern teams attempting many more from 55-plus than they used to, i.e., I'd bet the vast majority of 50-yarders before 2010 were from 53 or less. Kickers are making 86.2 percent of field-goal attempts this year, including all the long-range misses! This would like NBA shooting 50 percent from the field despite the massive proliferation of three-point attempts. 

The game is always changing – last week, I observed how mobile QBs are upending the league, an entire book (and movie) were made about how Lawrence Taylor ushered in the era of the superstar blind-side-protecting left tackle, and we now have an unprecedented crop of running backs (Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Kareem Hunt, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, not including all the specialists) who run routes and catch passes like wideouts. But Roger Craig played in the 1980s, Marshall Faulk the 1990s and even Jim Brown would almost certainly be great were he to time travel forward from the 1950s. The only comparable kicker of whom I can think is Morten Anderson, who made eight of nine attempts from 50-plus in 1985 and has 60- and 59-yarders on his resume. But Andersen's career kicking percentage was only 79.7%, elite for his day, but below even the likes of scrubs like Cairo Santos (80.4%) and Nick Folk (80.2%.) 

It seems like coaches are also aware as they've already attempted 51 and made 33 long-distance field goals so far, numbers that prorate to 163 and 105, respectively. That's nearly twice as many made long FG as only 10 years ago, meaning kickers – especially in formats like the NFFC where you get a point every tenth of a yard – are becoming a bigger part of your team's total output. 

Week 6 Sporcle Quiz

Can you name all the quarterbacks drafted with top-five overall picks since 2000? 

* Has Super Bowl ring

Guessing The Lines

GameMy LineGuessed LineActual LineML-ALO/UActual O/UMO-AO
Broncos at Patriots9.588.514245.5-3.5
Texans at Titans465.5-1.545N/AN/A
Browns at Steelers6.56.53.534951-2
Ravens at Eagles-6.5-6-7.514746.50.5
Football Team at Giants5.5432.545432
Falcons at Vikings873.54.55555.5-0.5
Lions at Jaguars0-2.5-3.53.55354.5-1.5
Bengals at Colts78.58-14446.5-2.5
Bears at Panthers332.50.546442
Jets at Dolphins778-14348-5
Packers at Buccaneers-2.5-1.5-1.5-15054-4
Rams at 49ers-2.5-3-3.5153503
Chiefs at Bills-2.50-30.555550
Cardinals at Cowboys33-2.55.55554.50.5

I had a hard time setting these this week. Part of it was my 4-9 Week 5, pending the Tuesday night game, but also we haven't seen the Bills or Titans, and both will be on short rest. Moreover, we don't know whether the two most important Patriots will play against the Broncos and the 49ers and Jets might not have their starting QBs again. I got closer on the totals, but was still low on the Packers-Bucs and Jets-Dolphins. 

As of now, I'm on the Cowboys, Vikings, Jaguars and Steelers, but reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book

 Week 5 Observations

  • The Vikings made the right call going for it on 4th-and-1 to seal the game, rather than kicking the FG to go up eight. They just didn't execute the play, or rather Alexander Mattison apparently missed a big hole. Mattison isn't bad, but he's not Dalvin Cook, who left with a groin injury.
  • If Cook misses a game, that'll be everyone in the top-six by ADP except Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara (knock on wood, Kamara plays tonight.) And throw in Davante Adams, Austin Ekeler and Miles Sanders among first rounders, not including Derrick Henry and his short-notice bye week.
  • Adam Thielen (13-9-80-2) is a top-five WR, and they finally got TE Irv Smith (5-4-64) involved, something I expected before Week 5.
  • DK Metcalf (11-6-93-2) is a top-3 WR, and arguably WR1. Think peak Terrell Owens, paired with Russell Wilson. I underrated Chris Carson (8-52-1, 7-6-27) who is getting regular work as a receiver. Catching passes is far less hazardous to one's health than seeing a heavy workload on the ground, and he's yet to eclipse 17 carries in a game.
  • Daniel Jones made some mistakes – he had no awareness of the rush on the fumble-six – but he was running for his life the entire game. The Giants run-blocked better the last two weeks, but the pass blocking is still atrocious.
  • Devonta Freeman (17-60-1, 3-2-27) wasn't efficient, but he showed some quickness and burst. I mocked people for making big FAAB bids on him, but it could pan out yet.
  • Darius Slayton (11-8-129) is far and away the team's best receiver, and his late sideline catch in coverage was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, he got jobbed of a TD catch due to a questionable offensive PI (pick play) where it's impossible to know if the offending receiver was simply running a route and crossed paths with Slayton's man.
  • Dak Prescott's injury was pretty gruesome – his foot rotated in a way that's not anatomically possible without breaking bones. It was also gruesome for fantasy owners because he had been the highest scoring QB in fantasy history over 4.5 games, on pace to crush Peyton Manning's all-time passing yardage record.
  • A couple people on Twitter tried to shame me for lamenting the fantasy side of Prescott's injury, which is as lame as shaming people for wanting sports back during the COVID lockdown. Just because something bigger is going on, of which everyone is obviously aware, doesn't mean your personal interests are unimportant. Just think – for all those people feeling bad for Prescott, do they not care about starving children in Africa? It's fine to care about your fantasy team, and it's fine to care about a professional athlete getting hurt, even if there are more serious matters in the world.
  • And while it's awful Prescott suffered such a nasty injury and lost out on what might have been an historic year, I'm less worked up about his contract than many. Yes, the Cowboys should have paid him, but this isn't Aaron Jones risking damage for peanuts as Dak will make $31 million dollars this year. But just because there are fantasy owners whose seasons are now in shambles, doesn't mean you can't worry about some multimillionaire's finances if that's important to you.
  • Andy Dalton played decently in relief and should be a viable fantasy QB going forward with all the weapons and likely shootouts. Not having Prescott's rushing ability at the goal line might help Elliott (19-91-2, 2-1-14) get a couple more rushing TDs too.
  • CeeDee Lamb (11-8-124) is the Cowboys No. 1 receiver, it seems, at least when Amari Cooper draws a top cover corner as James Bradberry seems to be. Mock Dave Gettleman all you like, but the defensive guys he brought in (Bradberry, Blake Martinez and Kyle Fackrell) have made plays all year.
  • I'm glad I picked up the Browns defense against Philip Rivers. At 49, I'd take even money I could beat him in a foot race.
  • Why was Rivers repeatedly throwing to Trey Burton short of the goal line, down nine, with time running down on the clock? Why not just save the time and kick the field goal on first down if you're not trying to get the TD?
  • Jonathan Taylor (12-57-1, 3-2-17) looks good, but with Rivers running a slow, inefficient, ball-control offense, there weren't that many plays for him.
  • Jarvis Landry (9-4-88) made an incredible catch over top of a defender, but also had two uncharacteristic drops. Odell Beckham and Austin Hooper also saw targets, but Baker Mayfield spread the ball around, and the offense didn't move the ball consistently. (Don't be deceived by the 32 points, as nine were scored by the defense.
  • All the 49ers quarterbacks are terrible, as apparently Jimmy Garoppolo isn't over his ankle injury.
  • Raheem Mostert (11-90-0, 3-3-29) was the lone bright spot, looking healthy and explosive again. I faded him this year and am close to taking the L, but still could luck out of it.
  • The offense was a a disaster, so there's no point in wondering why George Kittle didn't get more work, but it's annoying how they seem to forget about him for long stretches.
  • I nearly dropped Preston Williams (5-4-106-1) for a defense this week, but held onto him and jettisoned Zach Pascal instead. Maybe Williams' knee has healed after all.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick is a viable fantasy quarterback and probably will be until Tua Tagovailoa takes over.
  • Myles Gaskin (16-57-1, 5-5-34) is the guy, Matt Breida is the backup and Jordan Howard does not exist.
  • It's rare to see an nine-point favorite lose by 26 at home.
  • The Jaguars-Texans was a game before Stephen Homelesschka missed two easy field goals. DJ Chark left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, but had done almost nothing before then. Laviska Shenault (8-7-79) led the team, but his biggest play was for only 25 yards.
  • Deshaun Watson takes a ton of big hits, but his only serious injury was sustained his rookie year on a non-contact play during practice. He finally connected with Brandin Cooks (12-8-161-1), who was probably on a lot of benches after Week 4's no-show.
  • Lamar Jackson had a quiet game with only three rushing yards. Keep in mind he was banged up going in, so this was likely by design, and the Bengals offense obliged by scoring only three points.
  • Marquise Brown (10-6-77-1) and Mark Andrews (9-6-56-1) are still the only relevant pass catchers on the team.
  • Justin Tucker missed a 61-yard FG unfortunately, and I was actually surprised. It's too bad because it would have been worth more than a touchdown to me.
  • A.J. Green left with a hamstring injury and failed to record a catch. If I drafted him, which I didn't, I'd feel comfortable dropping him if I hadn't already.
  • It's annoying I had Darrell Henderson (15-38-1, 4-3-30-1) on my bench after Sean McVay gave Malcolm Brown so many carries last week and Cam Akers returned. Now McVay says Akers (9-61-0) will be even more involved next week, and I'll probably be forced to used Henderson due to byes.
  • Kyle Allen hurt his arm, and made way for the fairly tale return of Alex Smith who absorbed six sacks for 31 yards while attempting 17 passes for 37 yards, netting six. Aaron Donald (four sacks) helped ease Smith back in. Apparently Allen will start next week at the Giants.
  • Chase Claypool (11-7-110-3, 3-6-1) almost certainly had the greatest fantasy game of his prospective NFL career on people's benches. But even though Diontae Johnson (back) might return this week, Claypool's probably earned himself a significant role. The Steelers grow WR prospects on trees, it seems, from Mike Wallace to Antonio Brown to Emmanuel Sanders to Martavis Bryant to Juju Smith-Schuster and now Johnson and Claypool.
  • Miles Sanders (11-80-2, 4-2-19) looks worthy of the first-round pick people spent on him. But it would help if the Eagles had an offensive line.
  • Travis Fulgham (13-10-152-1) had a big day after making the game-winning catch last week. But Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and eventually Jalen Reagor should be back.
  • The only game I got right on the early slate was the Cardinals minus seven. I actually set the line at 10.5, thinking the Joe Flacco Jets would be 11-point underdogs, but mercifully my number put me on Arizona.
  • Kenyan Drake (18-60-1, 1-1-2) finally scored a TD, but Chase Edmonds (3-36-1, 6-5-56) was the bigger factor in the passing game, and Kyler Murray (380 yards, one pass TD) also scored on the ground.
  • There's really not much to say about the Jets except that as a Giants fan I'm happy they exist.
  • The Raiders knocked me out of Survivor. The Chiefs played their B-minus game, while the Raiders were A-plus. Their defense pressured Patrick Mahomes and for the most part dominated in the second half.
  • Derek Carr got 11.2 YPA, but spread the ball around to 10 different receivers. Henry Ruggs made a great catch downfield, but saw only three targets.
  • Mahomes and Tyreek Hill lost a long TD due to a holding call, Hill was interfered with on another deep ball that wasn't called and the Chiefs lost another TD to Clyde Edwards-Helaire on a pick play (it was unclear whether Travis Kelce was running a route.) But the game was 24-24 at the half, and the Raiders roundly outplayed them for the final 30 minutes.
  • Hill (6-3-78) had a modest day, but made up for it with a 15-yard TD run. Kelce (12-8-108-1) had the biggest game, but as usual no one but Mahomes (340 pass yards, two TDs, 21 rush yards, one TD) went crazy.
  • Edwards-Helaire (10-40-0, 8-3-40) looks good whenever I watch him, but Darrel Williams is seeing too many third-down snaps, and Mahomes rarely checks down (A few of CEH's targets were throwaways under pressure.)
  • The Panthers have found something with Teddy Bridgewater (313 yards, two TD, no picks, no sacks) and Mike Davis (16-89-0, 10-9-60-1.) The Falcons are a soft defense, but Carolina is 3-0 since Christian McCaffrey went down. It's hard to imagine Davis getting completely sidelined even when McCaffrey returns.
  • DJ Moore (5-4-93-1) finally got involved, but when they paid Robby Anderson (13-8-112) this offseason, they were apparently serious about making him their top target. It's strange when teams follow through in a way that makes perfect sense, given their actions.
  • I watched the condensed 40-minute version of the game this morning, and they accidentally edited out the Keenan Allen TD. I still haven't seen it. Allen also left the game with a back injury and didn't return.
  • Justin Herbert (268 yards, four TDs, no picks, three sacks) looks like the real deal, showing poise, arm strength and accuracy. Amazing the Chargers had no idea he was ready. It's not quite as bad as the Texans starting the barbaric Tom Savage over Deshaun Watson, though. Herbert's 40 time (4.68) was also faster than Josh Allen's (4.75), incidentally.
  • With Keenan Allen out, Mike Williams (8-5-109-2) had a monster game. Not only did he score twice, but he made the play to set up what could have been a game-winning field goal too. Williams has lived up to his 2017 seventh-overall draft pedigree whenever he's been healthy, but he's such a massive target for DBs, he takes a ton of big hits.
  • Justin Jackson (15-71-0, 6-5-23) looked competent against a good run defense.
  • Drew Brees was channeling Rivers last night, with a bad pick, some missed throws and a complete lack of arm strength or mobility. Even the 41-yard TD to Jared Cook was a little short, but worked out fine because Cook was so wide open. The Saints and Colts are pretty similar actually with good offensive lines and defenses, but a declining QB that's holding them back. (I still think Rivers is worse, but like the Colts the Saints ceiling is probably capped.)
  • Alvin Kamara (11-45-0, 10-8-74) got his usual workload, but couldn't break a lot of big plays and didn't get any goal-line work. Sanders (14-12-122) did his best Michael Thomas impression – it sure seems easy to have a high catch rate with short throws from Brees in this system.
  • The Saints return game was surprisingly good even without Deonte Harris. Some guy named Marquez Callaway looked like he might break one on every return. It's odd how some teams always have that guy, while others seem to go decades without making it past the 25-yard line.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Liss
Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.
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