Holder Bryan Anger is Lucy to Bucs’ ever-revolving list of Charlie Browns

Bryan Anger has had a toe-eyed view of the Bucs place-kicking woes over the past three seasons as the holder on field goals and extra points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Cairo Santos (5) and punter Bryan Anger (9) on the field for Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on November 15, 2018 at One Buc Place in Tampa. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Cairo Santos (5) and punter Bryan Anger (9) on the field for Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on November 15, 2018 at One Buc Place in Tampa. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Nov. 15, 2018|Updated Nov. 15, 2018

TAMPA — The three oak lockers are stacked in a row in the corner of the room and the occupants work closely together. The living space is for long-snapper Garrison Sanborn, punter/holder Bryan Anger and the Bucs kicker, a special team battery that is positioned in players' dressing area the way it is lined up on the field.

Eviction can come without much warning. The contents are cleared and a generic wood engraving that reads Tampa Bay Buccaneers replaces a personalized nameplate.

Cairo Santos had surveyed his dressing space for only a few minutes Wednesday when a gaggle of reporters and television cameras greeted him like the neighborhood welcome wagon.

Anger never looked up from the padded folding chair in front of his locker, sitting with his back turned to the scrum and focusing on video cut-ups of the New York Giants punt return team on his laptop.

"Obviously, we spend probably 95 percent of our time together during the day so it's tough to see a friend go," Anger said. "It happened last year with Nick Folk, too. So you get close and get started to meet somebody and really get to know them and, poof!, they're gone. So, yeah, it's tough but it's a known thing that happens. Obviously, it's a performance business so it can happen to anybody at any time."

It had not been more than 48 hours since the Bucs foreclosed on Chandler Catanzaro, the former Jets free agent who lasted only nine games. Unlike the trajectory of most of his missed kicks, nothing had broken right for the Jets free agent.

He missed field goals of 30 and 48 yards in the Bucs' 16-3 loss against Washington. At the time of his dismissal, Catanzaro had made only 11 of 15 field goals (73.3 percent) — ranking 31st in the league. He also missed four extra points (85.2 percent).

Santos is the Bucs' seventh kicker since 2014. The dizzying record of failure at that position is unmatched in the NFL during that span. The other six are all out of the league.

In total, there have been eight kicking changes. Patrick Murray won the job over Connor Barth in coach Lovie Smith's first season. Then Notre Dame rookie Kyle Brindza was the flavor of the month until he missed five field goals and an extra point in two games early in the 2015 and was replaced by Barth.

The Bucs drafted Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft and hoped they had solved the kicking woes for a decade with the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. But Aguayo made only 22 of 31 field goals (71 percent) and lost his job the next year in training camp to Folk.

When Folk melted down, going 6-for-11  and missing two PATs, he was replaced by Murray for the remainder of the season. Then Catanzaro, known for his strong leg, missed four field goals and four extra points in nine games. He was paid $3.75 million.

For the past three years, Anger has had a toe-side seat to every miss as the Bucs' holder on field goals and extra points.

"At our positions, we're essentially our own coaches," Anger said. "Special teams coordinators, it depends on who you have. Some know more than others. Nate (Kaczor) is good and Nate knows some technical facts and points to focus on for kickers and punters. He's a good set of eyes. I know kicking through some of the guys I've played with, so I can tell them if he toed the ball a little bit of kind of how the spin came off. I can help guide him. But he knows. There's only so much we can do."

Statistically, if the cursed ground for Tampa Bay kickers is at Raymond James Stadium. Since 2014, the Bucs have made only 67 percent of their field goal tries (43-of-64). But the road field goal percentage is 80 percent (64-of-80), closer to the NFL average.

"They've got a bunch of studies on that," coach Dirk Koetter said. "They've got all kind of analytic studies with percentages — I don't pay much attention to that myself, but other people do. That's just, it is what it is. That's where we play

"They've got a ranking on it. I mean, I'm embarrassed to even tell you, so I won't."

What's confounding is visiting kickers have no problem at Raymond James. Over the same period, opponents made 81.6 percent of field goals in Tampa and 81.3 percent everywhere else.

"You get winds," Anger said of kicking at home. "We're close to the water, so you get winds and different temperatures. It's better than playing in Buffalo or Cleveland. The heat helps a lot. It keeps the ball kind of softer. The ball in cold weather turns into a rock. So you're playing with wind and you're playing with a hard ball that doesn't want to compress, so we've got that on our side. Every place has different nuances."

Mostly, the problem isn't controlling the football in the 18 feet, 6 inches between goal posts. A bigger concern is the 6 inches between the ears.

Anger has not only served as the holder for kicks, but also as the psychologist, counselor and confidant for the Bucs' wayward kickers.

After his rookie year, Aguayo said he learned to take the job more seriously. But Anger said expectations that came with being a second-round pick swallowed him.

"It's tough. He was such a high draft pick, having really high expectations having had such a successful college career," Anger said of Aguayo. "He's a great kicker but was just thrown into the fire. You don't really know what to expect when you go from so much success to what happened. Very humbling. And he's handled it well. He's hit the ball well.

"I went through Josh Scobee at Jacksonville. A seasoned vet. Eleven years. For whatever reason, they wanted to do with a younger guy, Jason Myers, when we broke camp. So they traded Josh away to (the Steelers). So Jason came in as a young guy replacing Scobee so I've seen everything. You never really know what to expect."

Folk was an established 10-year veteran who played for the Cowboys and Jets and was a career 83 percent field-goal kicker. So when he struggled to get above 50 percent, Anger figured something was wrong. Eventually, he was placed on injured reserve with tendonitis.

"Nick was a little banged up," Anger said. "He was nursing some injuries. He got put on IR. For us, you've got one guy. You can't bring the backup in. Of course, you want to maintain your job. You don't want to sacrifice anything and try to push through injury. It's complicated. There's situations that happen that the public isn't aware of just in terms of the operation and things like that. Just little things."

The weirdest thing about Catanzaro, Anger said, is that you've never seen a more accurate kicker in practice.

"For us, he's always been in a groove," Anger said. "You see him in practice and he's lights out. He's got great form and that's where, for seasoned guys, he did it, too, you've got to fall back to what you were doing in camp. I'm not saying he tried to change anything. That's where he knew he needed to fall back to the techniques with everything going on. He's got a good base start. So you always have something to fall back onto. He's a technically sound guy. Watches film. Really studies his craft. So, it's tough to say what happened. I can't pinpoint anything."

As a holder, Anger will have to adjust to Santos' routine, but he says it should be a problem.

"Different tempos. Different approach to the ball," Anger said. "Different pre-snap routine and stuff. Cairo has got a couple different tendencies. You learn a guy's mis-hit. You learn when something happens, how he's going to mis-hit the ball. But yeah, it's mostly just tilt and timing."

How long will the space in this exclusive enclave of lockers be assigned to Santos?

Anger has no idea.

"It's just a crazy business," Anger said. "To wrap it all up. It's just a crazy business."