Thursday, 5:30 a.m.
Here's what I would do to keep the sky from falling around Roberto Aguayo, wobbly placekicker.
Nothing. I'd joke about it, maybe. I'd suggest he might have missed the planet earth on that last kick.
Maybe I'd let Martin Gramatica spend some time with him, or maybe Michael Husted. I might give him the day off to go to the movies. Toes of Stone, maybe. I'd open one of those care packages from Kyle Brindza.
But, by and large, I'd ignore it. A kicker has missed a couple of kicks in games that do not matter, will not matter, have never mattered. That's it. Big whoop.
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No, I would not bring in another kicker. No, I would not panic. No, I would not sweat.
I'd just point Aguayo at the goal posts and tell him to go get them.
Granted, there are a lot of people in Aguayo's head these days. There are his teammates and his coaches and his advisors and a mental coach and Gramatica and Dirk Koetter and the Glazers and those wise-guys who heckled him from the stands, as if they could embarrass him into kicking better. There are his past coaches and his past teammates and the fans who believed in him and those fans who think the second round is absurdly high for a placekicker. There is the guy who tends to the turf that Aguayo is ruining by kicking worm-burners that trickle across the grass.
And you know what?
None of them matter. None.
Aguayo binked an extra point off an upright. He missed a 32-yarder to the right. He missed a 49-yarder, which is hardly a sure thing.
For that, we're in a full-blown panic?
Look, kickers are wired differently. It's why so few of them go high in the draft. When a kicker goes bonkers, no coach in the world really knows what to do. Have you ever known a special teams coach who actually kicked? Me, neither. All they know is to keep teeing it up and hope the guy pulls out of his nosedive.
Me? Call me silly, but I saw Aguayo make a ton of kicks at FSU. I'm not willing to give up during the preseason.
Yeah, yeah. You can suggest the Bucs overpaid for Aguayo (which remains to be seen). But guess what? If they cut him tomorrow, they don't get their draft pick back. At this point, the best course of action is trust the skills that made the Bucs fall in love with him to start with. Which brings you to the real reason for preseason: It's so a fan can worry.
Hey. Wide right happens. You know that.
Sebastian Janikowski, who was a No. 1 draft pick, missed three of his first five kicks. Steve Little was the 15th overall pick. He was cut in his third season after missing five of eight field goals. Russell Erxleben was a No. 1 draft pick (11th overall), but was hurt on his first field goal try. He hit only four of eight kicks in his career. The highest drafted kicker was Charlie Gogolak, who was fifth overall in 1964. His second year, he was only one of four on field goals.
Jerry DePoyster was a No. 2 pick of the Lions but hit only three of 15 field goals. Chris Bahr, a No. 2 pick in 1975, missed two of his first three kicks. Mike Nugent, a No. 2 draft pick by the Jets, missed six field goals his rookie year. John Lee, a high No. 2 draft pick, missed five and was gone after a year.
Adam Viniatieri went one-for-four in his second game. Jason Hanson? A No. 2 draft pick by Detroit, he went three-for-six in his first three games. Chip Lohmiller, a No. 2 draft pick by Washington, missed seven field goals his rookie year.
You want to know why most teams are reluctant to take a kicker high? That's why. Because of Little and Erxleben and Lee and the rest. Because most teams don't coach their kickers; they kind of ride the slumps through.
Right now, the danger with Aguayo isn't that he's missed; it's that he shows signs of letting it overwhelm him. He has to get rid of the voices. He has to calm down.
All he has to do is kick.
He's done it before.