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The 'Skins May Need a New Kicker, But Options are Limited

Billy Cundiff may have worn out his welcome, but kickers are a fickle bunch



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    LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 07: Place kicker Billy Cundiff #5 of the Washington Redskins ducks his head after missing a field goal against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter at FedExField on October 7, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Let's be honest: Billy Cundiff was fortunate to keep his job after he went 1-for-4 against the Buccaneers in Week 4. He honked his first three attempts before willing a 41-yarder through the uprights to give the Redskins a last-second win -- but if Cundiff had made a meaningless first-quarter field goal and missed his next three, including a potential game-winner, he'd be hanging on the couch with Graham Gano right now.

    Turns out, he might just hit the couch anyway. Cundiff missed another field goal in Week 5's loss to the Falcons and that was enough to prompt coach Mike Shanahan into action. On Monday, the coach conceded that there would be competition coming to Redskins Park beginning ... now.

    "I'm disappointed, especially when it's a chip shot in there," Shanahan told the Washington Post after the Falcons loss that saw Cundiff flub a 31-yarder. "What was it, the 13-yard line? Something in that range. That's always disappointing when you have a chance to get a little momentum going, especially at that time of the game."

    Disappointing, indeed.

    Cundiff -- who missed from 32 yards during last season's AFC Championship game that sent the Ravens home and the Patriots to the Super Bowl -- has spent more time in the last seven months talking about his failings than most kickers do in a career. Predictably, he wasn't in a chatty mood Sunday.

    "It'd be much easier to keep it brief," he said of the 31-yard attempt he failed to convert. "I don't see any reason to go into extreme detail. It was just a miss. I think it's a kick I should make. It was a makeable kick. I just didn't hit it."

    And that's why changes could be coming.

    “We’re going to work out a few people [Tuesday],” Shanahan said. “Obviously everything is based off of how they kick.”

    Various reports have Olindo Mare, Josh Brown and Kai Forbath getting tryouts, in addition to several long snappers. (Apparently, part of the problem has been with the exchange -- from snap to hold to kick.)

    Before the torch-and-pitchfork crowd mobilizes in an effort to get Cundiff canned, here's something to keep in mind: Kickers are a notoriously fickle bunch and that goes beyond the obvious physical differences between them and their teammates, or their past lives as soccer players. They're also wildly inconsistent from one year to the next.

    Put differently: Last season's sure thing is anything but this time around.

    We mention this not to suggest that Shanahan should stick with Cundiff, but to point out that just because the Redskins make a change, it won't magically fix the kicking game (especially if the long snapper has a non-trivial role in all this).

    In a 2008 article for, Aaron Schatz examined every kicker form 1999 to 2006 and found that "there is absolutely no correlation between a kicker's field goal percentage one year and his field goal percentage the next. This is just as true for a future Hall of Famer as it is for a scrub signed off the waiver wire."

    As it stands, the Redskins are sifting through the kicking scrap heat, not cruising Canton for solutions.

    Mare, 39, was with the Panthers in 2011 where he made 78.6 percent of his kicks. Brown was in Jets camp in August but lost out to Nick Folk. He converted 75 percent of his kicks with the Rams last season. Forbath, meanwhile, is a former UCLA standout who went undrafted in 2011 and has yet to attempt a field goal in a regular-season game.

    For an idea of how kickers can fluctuate from one year to the next, consider this: Mare's success rate was 83.3 percent in 2010, and 92.3 percent in 2009. Brown was less erratic: 84.6 percent in '10, 79.2 percent in '09.

    And Cundiff, the incumbent? Not surprisingly, it's been a roller coaster: from 2012 back to 2009 he's converted 58.3, 75.7, 89.7, and 78.3 percent of his tries with three different teams. And by the time you read this, he could be looking for employer No. 4.