The Bucs kicking woes are no secret. It’s been well documented. Since releasing kicker Matt Bryant in 2009, the Bucs have changed kickers a whopping 9 times. Meanwhile, Bryant has hit 88.7% of his FG’s and 315 of his 316 extra points since signing with the Falcons. You’re welcome, Atlanta. Some would say that the team has been cursed since his release. Bucs kickers have only hit 74% of their FG’s over the last 5 seasons. However, the kicking problems started long before Matt Bryant’s departure. Since 2001, the Bucs have hit a league worst 77.5% of their field goals including just 76.1% at home. In fact from 2013-17, they only made 69.8% of their kicks inside RayJay while their opponents made 85.4% of their kicks. That’s the biggest difference in the entire NFL.
The issue isn’t just with field goals. It’s also with the kickoffs. The problem seems to be that the Bucs can’t find a kicker that can do both. In 2016, Roberto Aguayo came in and only hit on 71% of his field goals but 66% of his kickoffs were touchbacks (52 of 79). Last season, between Nick Folk and Patrick Murray, they made just 74% of their kicks but also had one of the league’s worst touchback percentages with 35% (27 of 77). Hence, yet another kicking change.
Enter recently signed free agent kicker Chandler Catanzaro. “The Catman” was with the Jets last season where he made 83% of his kicks, including 14 of 19 over 40 yards, and 100% of his extra points. In comparison, Folk and Murray were 9 of 17 with kicks over 40 yards last season. Not only is his FG percentage better, but his touchback percentage is nearly double. In 2017 alone, 64% of his kickoffs went unreturned (45 of 71).
Catanzaro was born February 26, 1991 in Simpsonville, South Carolina. He was a walk-on at Clemson University where he ended up as the starting kicker as a freshman. He only missed two field goals during his junior and senior years. He made 82% of his kicks in college and was the first Tiger to ever start in 50+ games (52). After college, he started to follow in his father Joseph’s footsteps and began pursuing dermatology. He was in the process of med school interviews and studying for the MCAT exam when Bruce Arians came calling after the 2014 NFL Draft.
He began his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals where he set an NFL record by making his first 17 straight field goals and set a franchise record for scoring with 114 points (second highest for a rookie behind the Eagles Cody Parkey). He hit 89% of his field goals during his first two seasons in Arizona and is one of only 14 kickers in NFL history with a made field goal of 60+ yards. In 2016, he had a “down year” making only 75% of his field goals (21 of 28) and missing 4 of his 47 extra point attempts. However, I don’t think it was totally his fault. That season the Cards used two different long snappers and three different place holders with four different combinations. Change is never a good thing for a kicker whose job is based on timing and repetition. After that season, he was released and signed by the New York Jets where he replaced Nick Folk as the starting kicker.
In his career, he has made 84.4% of his field goals (103 of 122) and 56% of his kickoffs have been touchbacks. That touchback percentage doesn’t sound great, but he has improved it every year that he’s been in the league. It started with 48% in 2014, then went to 51% in 2015, 63% in 2016 and 64% last season. Not only is he accurate with a big leg, but he’s an ironman too. He’s never missed a game due to injury playing in all 16 game in each one of his first four seasons.
Are the Bucs cursed? Hell, I don’t know. They sure seem to be between Matt Bryant and Jon Gruden and Rich McKay and Bo Jackson and all the different quarterbacks, general managers, head coaches and kickers. Hopefully this season, “The Catman” can put an end to at least the curse surrounding the Bucs kickers.
Until then, as always…Go Bucs!!!