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My Kicker Is My Wingman

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Training Camp
Who’s your buddy? Who’s your pal?
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how attractive a guy might be, at times he needs a wingman. The job of the wingman is to occupy the other girl(s) who came with the girl his buddy is trying to impress. The wingman, by definition, cannot be more attractive or charming as his friend. His sole purpose is to ensure his buddy has the full attention of the girl he wants to meet.

On an NFL roster, the kicker is the wingman. He is that guy who is not required for the team to make the love connection, i.e. win the Super Bowl, but he serves to ensure there is a greater opportunity that it will happen.

Consider the plight of the Jaguars, a team whose “stud” is clearly the defense.

The misery that was the start of the Jaguars 2017 season rested heavily on the shoulders of Jason Myers. At .500 after six games, results masked the reality of a team much better than the record indicated. Having made the fan base nervous enough with his capacity to make extra points a Herculean effort, any faith in his consistency to grab three points when needed was all but gone. Jason’s FG success rate stood at 73.3%, having made 11 of 15. But those misses were daggers.

Look at the evidence.

Having just throttled the Baltimore Ravens in London, the Jaguars traveled to the New York Jets for what looked to be an easy week four victory. In a three points OT loss to the Jets, Myers hit a closing seconds 22 yard FG to send it into OT, but one could argue his early 4th qtr 52 yard miss played into Doug Marrone calling for a punt at the Jets 43 yard line rather than giving Jason a shot to win it.

Two weeks later, coming off the Jaguars dispatching the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the team once again failed to carry the momentum against the Los Angeles Rams. While special teams on the whole burned the farm, it was Myers going 1 for 3 in FG attempts that stood out in the 10 point loss.

With the promise of Jason’s 2015 season a distant memory, where he finished with an 86.7 FG percentage, the 5th best in Jaguars history at the time, he was replaced with ex-Los Angeles Chargers kicker Josh Lambo. All Lambo did for the remainder of the season was go 19 of 20, 95%, including an OT winner over his previous team.

Josh’s demonstrative displays mirrored those of Colts killer Josh Scobee. Running the field, arms flailing, and throwing the helmet brought back memories of Scobee’s 2010 59 yarder to beat the Colts. Here was another Josh that was easy to love, not only for his personality, but also for what appeared to be the missing link to the teams overall consistency. The defense was top shelf, Bortles was playing better, and now there was confidence in the kicker.

After Lambo joined the club, well you know the story. The Jaguars would lose only three more regular season games (with two being after the playoffs were set), and would come just minutes away from their first Super Bowl appearance.

You cannot convince me they even come within a hope of the playoffs with Myers’ foot.

But is there evidence beyond this one season that a kicker actually makes a difference when it comes to making the playoffs, much less winning a Super Bowl? Can the kicker actually be seen as a wingman? I looked at the statistic of FG percentages over the past 16 years as my metric in making my argument.

To start, consider our own Josh Scobee. In his history with the Jaguars, he finished top 10 in FG percentage four times. One was in 2007, the last time the Jaguars made a playoff run, where he finished 8th. In the 2011 - 2013 seasons he rated 3rd, 8th, and 8th respectively, but the team could do no better than five wins in any of those years.

Looking outside the Jaguars it gets worse when looking at the best kickers in the league FG percentage wise.

  • In 2005 the Arizona Cardinals used Neil Rackers and Nick Novak, who combined made 95.6% to lead the league. The Cardinals finished 5 - 11.
  • The 2008 season saw the Detroit Lions Jason Hanson hit 95.5% of his FG. The Lions finished 0 - 16.
  • In 2010 the Vikings Ryan Longwell led the league at 94.4%, but his team only mustered 6 wins.
  • The 2012 season saw two players lead the league with 93.5% success rate. Phil Dawson’s Browns finished 5 - 11, while the Cowboys Dan Bailey could only help his team reach 8 - 8.

Over the past 16 seasons, only 56% of the time did the team who had the kicker with the best FG percentage make the playoffs, and of those only two made the Super Bowl. The Patriots won it in 2004 with Adam Vinatieri, and the Broncos lost in 2013 with Matt Prater.

Sure, that’s not the most compelling statistic but I will take 56%. It means the odds are in my favor. And mind you, this is only looking at what happens when you have the best of the best. The most efficient of all others (note: I did not look at teams that made the playoffs with the following data points.) So how good does my kicker have to be to be a successful wingman? Being the best at anything does not assure a team finds themselves standing amidst the confetti. Ask the 2011 Patriots where regular season perfection left them.

Let’s define success a bit more.

  • If your kicker is top 10, you have a 38% chance of making the Super Bowl, and a 19% chance of winning it.
  • If your kicker is top 15, you have a 63% chance of making the Super Bowl, and a 31% chance of winning it.

To add a bit of context to the Josh Lambo impact, his 95% success rate was just below the Carolina Panthers Graham Gano, who finished the season at 96.7%.

The statistics tell an obvious tale. Having the most reliable kicker in the league is not the magic pill to get you the Lombardi Trophy. That said, having a kicker in the top half of the league will give you a better chance of having the chance. If you are in a committed relationship, and your partner is around, take a look in their direction and ask yourself if you would take these odds when you first met them, and hoped for an opportunity to impress them further?

If you told me I had a 56% chance to be in a long term relationship with my now wife, leveraging the best wingman possible, I’m in. Furthermore, if my wingman was in the top half of the wingman pantheon, and having that guy meant I had a 63% chance of approaching marriage, then again I’m in.

Remember, the wingman’s job is not to close the deal. My wingman did not put that ring on my wife’s finger. That was my job. For a football team, you need a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Rothlisberger, or Baltimore Ravens (2012)/New York Giants (2011) defense. Maybe, just maybe, the Jaguars have that Ravens/Giants type defense. And maybe, just maybe, they have a quarterback in Blake Bortles who is just as efficient as an Joe Flaco or Eli Manning.

Go ahead. Fall in love with Calais Campbell, Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, Tashaun Gispon, or Telvin Smith. Those guys are going to walk into the bar, and the heads are going to run. But do not forget to show some appreciation for Josh Lambo. He is going to give those guys one less thing to worry about, and maybe, just maybe, that will lead to a ring.