Bucs’ latest contestant to the kicking game: Murray

by Gary Shelton on October 10, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The theory, I guess, is that Patrick Murray knows where the bones are buried.

He knows where the black cats have crossed, and where the ladders have been erected. He knows the area that Mirro Roder cursed from the spot where Bill Capece spread his hoodoo to the place where Peter Rajecki stuck his pins into a doll. He can tell Roberto Aguayo's wide right from Nick Folk's wide left to Garo Yepremian's coming up short to Neil O'Donoghue swinging and flat-out missing.

Well, welcome back Patrick.

You have some awful small shoes to fit into.

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If you didn't hear, Murray is the once and again placekicker for the Bucs, replacing Folk, who replaced Aguayo, who replaced Connor Barth (who wasn't bad), who replaced Kyle Brindza. Call it the tale of the trembling toes. No one around here has kicked very long. Or, for that matter,very straight.

It is the land of broken mirrors...and broken dreams. It is a horror show where the screams never stop. There are teams that have troubles with certain positions -- the Browns and quarterbacks, for instance -- but can anyone match the kicking flubs of the Bucs? You've heard of the Keystone Kops; how about the Keystone Kickers?

And yet, the Bucs keep trying to outfox the league, don't they? They had an offensive lineman, George Yarno, try to kick. They had Bill Capece (“Capece is kaput,” said John McKay). They tried Peter Rajecki, who once noted that McKay made him nervous when he watched. "(Please inform Mr. Rajecki that I intend to attend all of the games,” McKay said.)

Once, the Bucs found a kicker they liked in Steve Christie, and they tried the hidden ball trick. They promised Christie a bonus if he wouldn't leave in Plan B. Christie took the money. Then he took a plane out of town (to Buffalo, of all places).

There have been a few times that the Bucs looked to have a kicker. Donald Igwebuike kicked for Tampa Bay for five years. Michael Husted lasted six. Martin Gramatica was good for six. Barth kicked for five.

But there are certain positions that have haunted Tampa Bay over the years. Quarterback is one. Offensive coordinator is one. Placekicker is one. For Tampa Bay, placekickers have been like the Dating Game with three ugly bachelors...and more in the wings.

Funny. At first glance, you'd think the Bucs could fine a tremendous kicker. The weather is good, and the grass is among the NFL's best. The goalposts are the same size as everyone else's. Still, there seem to be snakes in the turf. There are animal traps.

Take Gramatica. For the most part, he was proficient. But in Green Bay one Christmas Eve, he probably had the biggest miss in the franchise history. If he had made it, the Bucs would have beaten the Packers, and they would have had a bye week in the playoffs, and they would have had a home game. Instead, they trundled off to Philly, where they lost in the cold.

Then there was the immortal Mike Nugent. The Bucs had a good kicker in Matt Bryant (who is still going, by the way), but Bryant missed seven field goals in 2008. So the Bucs threw silly money at Mike Nugent, who proceeded to kick with clown shoes. He hit only two of six before he was history.

Then there came Murray, who was actually pretty good in 2014. The thing was, no one noticed because the Bucs were having a simply dreadful year. They went 2-14 with free agents like Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson and Josh McCown.

Murray hit 20 of 24 field goals, including five or six from more than 50. It didn't matter. He tore an ACL in 2015 (Brindza won the job, followed by Barth) and reinjured it in '16.

Still, Murray is only 26. He's old enough to have outlived a curse.

The question is: Have the rest of us?

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