Painful images of missed field goal kicks from the past few seasons resonate in my mind. The potential game winning Steven Hauschka kick sailing wide left against the Vikings in 2009 is imprinted in my head as is the Billy Cundiff left hook in Foxborough. As harsh as the moments were, Baltimore once held both of those men in high regard before those incidents tarnished their reputation forever.
Hauschka came to the Ravens after a short stint with the Vikings and brought his big leg with him. He looked promising after nailing his first career field goal 54 yards right down the middle against the Texans in 2008. But those high hopes of a new franchise kicker quickly dissipated the following season after Hauschka missed four field goals in the first half of the season before being released during week 10, effectively ushering in the Billy Cundiff era.
Fans quickly grew fond of Cundiff after he kicked a game-winner in overtime against the Steelers two weeks after the release of Hauschka. He followed up his 2009 success with a pro-bowl season in 2010, setting the record for most touchbacks in a season and hitting 26 of 29 field goal attempts. Baltimore believed they had finally found the heir to the automatic Matt Stover and signed Cundiff to a five-year, $15 million contract. Unfortunately, It was all downhill from there as Cundiff struggled in 2011 and all of his troubles culminated in that fateful missed kick during the waning seconds of the AFC Championship game. Cundiff was released this offseason in favor of the Ravens’ current kicker, rookie Justin Tucker.
Although we’re all still high on Tucker’s early success, including that shaky game-winning field goal against the Patriots last week, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. As hopeful as I am for the young Longhorn alum, history has shown us that admiration can quickly turn to hate in the world of place kickers.
Only time will determine the eventual fate of Justin Tucker, but my fingers are crossed for now.