Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

Does this mean Bucs' kicking problem is fixed? Not so fast

The Bucs got a new kicker.

Feel better now?

Happy now?

His name is Patrick Murray. He used to kick here once upon a time. Seems like every journeyman kicker has kicked here once upon a time.

This is just what the Bucs do. This is just who they are. What else is new?

Publix does fried chicken. Wendy's does hamburgers. And the Bucs do mediocre kickers.

Most NFL players have their names on a permanent nameplate on their locker. The Bucs should just put "Kicker'' on their kicker's locker. It's a new guy every week.

Next!

So in comes Murray and everyone is supposed to feel better now.

What's to like about the new guy? Well, he isn't the old guy. Or the guy before that. Or the one before that. Oops, hold on. Actually, he was the guy before that.

Anyway, this is what it comes down to: He's new. He's different. He's not the last guy. That's the only reason to feel good now.

Murray isn't Nick Folk, who suddenly got the yips after a pretty decent 11-year NFL career. Murray isn't Roberto Aguayo, who went from being the best kicker ever in college at Florida State to the worst kicker ever in the NFL.

Yet, it's odd. Everyone is supposed to feel good now because the Bucs have a new kicker even though that new kicker didn't have a job two days ago. There are 32 NFL teams. Everyone has a kicker. And Murray wasn't one of them.

Folk had a job. Aguayo was getting a tryout. Murray? He couldn't find work.

But he will solve the problem? He's the answer?

Actually, go back and trace it and see how silly this kicking business is.

Murray was here. But the Bucs were so concerned that they traded up in the draft to take Aguayo in the 2016 second round, so they cut Murray.

Then Aguayo was so bad that they signed Folk this year and cut Aguayo before there was even a true competition. Then Folk was so bad that the Bucs held a tryout Monday and came up with Murray — a kicker they didn't trust so much that they drafted Aguayo.

Murray probably still has self-help books lying around at One Buc Place.

Feel better now?

But, you say, most of Murray's issues were physical. He had a torn ACL in 2015, then tore a patellar tendon last season.

Wait, a kicker with a history of leg injuries?

My goodness. That's supposed to make us feel better?

In the end, you just never know what you're going to get with kickers. That's what so maddening about it. Your season might depend on a kicker. He can win or lose a game. And one game might be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. Yet, there's nothing you can do but hold your breath and hope he makes his kicks when called upon.

A left tackle has issues blocking, so you work on his technique. A quarterback has trouble throwing the ball, so you tinker with his footwork.

But a kicker gets the shanks and all you can really do is say, "Kick better!'' And if he doesn't, you cut him and bring in the next guy.

He's like a fragile toy. You wind him up and send him out there. Eventually, the toy breaks. So you chuck it in the garbage and get another one. Then you play with that one until it breaks.

With the exception of Justin Tucker, Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski and a few others, most of the NFL is full of kickers who are reliable until they aren't. And you never know when they will go off the rails, suddenly and without warning. One Sunday they are making kicks, and the next week they aren't, and the next week after that they're out of a job.

They get cut, go to another team, then are good again. Until they go bad. Even the best kickers aren't automatic.

It's the craziest thing.

So the Bucs now turn to Murray. But maybe Aguayo and Folk should stick near the phone. You never know.

Feel better now?

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

 
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