Sport

Hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned

Today’s news gets more and more interesting, or more and more worrying if you are running PR for the NFL.
Hot on the heels that the Houston Texans went out and signed two quarterbacks today to replace DeShaun Watson, neither of whom is named Colin Kaepernick, comes the news that the legal team acting for Kaepernick in his case against the NFL has officially asked that several NFL owners, including Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Bob McNair, be deposed. Additionally, other teams are being asked to turn over all communications that might be related to Colin Kaepernick, including emails and mobile phone records.
Now, I have one question for you all: what are the chances that a voluble self-promoter like Jerry Jones, who cannot publicly keep quiet about the anthem protest, and who is now busy claiming that Pappa Johns’ founder John Schattner is a “fine American”, kept quiet privately about Colin Kaepernick?
I assess those chances as somewhere between diddly and squat. Ditto Bob McNair, whose “inmates running the prison” comment maybe revealed a lot more about his underlying attitude to players than he intended or wanted to reveal. Robert Kraft was probably a lot more careful. He is usually very measured in all of his public pronouncements, and, by all accounts, has been a key figure behind the scenes in mediating disputes between owners and between the NFL and the players. But Jerry Jones? No. Jones cannot stop yapping in public, so I regard it as highly likely that he has said some things in private that Kaepernick’s legal team would love to read and/or hear. That is, if they can be included in discovery.

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And the circumstantial collusion evidence pile keeps growing…

With the expiry of the trade period in the NFL, any team needing a quarterback can only sign a free agent.
Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts officially owned up to something that was becoming rather obvious – that Andrew Luck will not play this season. He underwent major shoulder surgery in the off-season and has not recovered enough to even practice properly. The Colts had already traded for Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots to be their starting quarterback for the season, so this does not impact any free agent moves.
Meanwhile, down in Houston, DeShaun Watson, the new starting quarterback for the Houston Texans, ruptured his ACL in practice yesterday and will miss the rest of the season. The Texans have Tom Savage as a backup, who was benched after 1 game for Watson. Watson is a running quarterback whose playing style is close to that of a free agent quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. However, at time of writing, the Texans appear to be about to sign another free agent not named Kaepernick.
These kinds of decisions by NFL teams are simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that will be pointed to by Kaepernick’s legal team as evidence of collusion. There still needs to be a “smoking gun” uncovered in discovery for a ruling of collusion to be possible, but even if the arbitrator rules against Kaepernick, the overall impression of a sports league bent on punishing a player engaging in peaceful protest is likely to be difficult to ignore.

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The Mark Geragos 10 day claim over Kaepernick

When I wrote the essay on the Mark Geragos claim that Colin Kaepernick would be signed within 10 days, I was discounting (for now) the possibility that the weight of circumstantial evidence would become too great for the arbitrator to dismiss it.
I may be about to revise that viewpoint. The NFL is constantly adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence.
Two attempted quarterback trades occurred at the trade deadline. The 49ers succeeded in acquiring Jimmy Garroppolo from the Patriots. Then an apparent fiasco unfolded right at the trading deadline, with the Cleveland Browns attempting to acquire A.J. McCarron from the Bengals for draft picks, only to have the trade fail to complete, seemingly due to internal SNAFUs in the Browns organization.
From the viewpoint of Kaepernick’s legal team, here are two more clear examples of teams with a quarterback performance issue desperately trying to find another starting quarterback without even asking Colin Kaepernick if he was interested.
The situation will now only get worse for the NFL. With the trade deadline now having passed, if an NFL team loses its starting quarterback to injury, or suddenly becomes desperate for a new option at quarterback, they cannot now trade for a quarterback from another team. They have to sign a free agent, or (far less likely) win a waiver claim contest for a quarterback suddenly released from a team. (That latter scenario is extremely unlikely, since most NFL teams only have 2 quarterbacks on their rosters, and they would not release a quarterback in the season since it would leave them with no backup quarterback in a game).
Colin Kaepernick is a free agent.
So…from this point onwards in the season, any team that signs a free agent quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick is simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that Kaepernick’s legal team will point to as evidence of collusion.
Another underlying challenge in all of this is that Roger Goodell is relatively powerless to influence NFL team behavior. He works for the teams, not the other way around, and since NFL teams are officially forbidden from colluding on any issue other than broadcasting rights, Goodell is now unable to say anything of substance on the Colin Kaepernick issue, especially now it is the subject of a lawsuit, since anything that he does say can be parsed though a viewpoint that asks the question “so were the teams colluding?”. This, by the way, is also why Goodell spoke very carefully about the anthem protests. He cannot be seen to be suggesting to the teams, collectively, what they can or cannot do, and in the case of the anthem issue, his hands are also tied by the CBA, which does not specify any requirements on player behavior for the National Anthem.

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Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL – lawyer makes a big claim

Mark Geragos, the lead lawyer for Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL, made a bold claim today, during an appearance on the Adam Carolla Show:

“I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” he said. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”

Now…that is a pretty bold and specific claim. Several possible motives for the claim spring to mind:

1. Geragos is trolling or bullshitting
2. Geragos believes that discovery will uncover evidence of collusion against Kaepernick
3. Geragos believes that discovery will likely uncover other evidence of collaboration or collusion between teams and owners that may put the NFL in a difficult legal position

(1) still seems likely. Absent a clear communication between two teams along the lines of “remember don’t sign Kaepernick”, it is still likely that insufficient direct evidence of collusion exists. Whether Geragos thinks that the circumstantial evidence of collusive intent (via the intemperate public and leaked comments of the POTUS and several NFL team owners) is strong enough is open to debate. However, absent a “smoking gun”, the case may well become a trial in the court of public opinion. (there may well, of course, be other private comments from owners that will turn up in discovery that could be damaging. We just don’t know that those might be).
(2) and (3) would add up to multiple problems for the NFL. If (2) is proved, they would would be forced to pay Kaepernick a large pile of money for effectively running him out of the NFL – that sum could easily be more than $50m. They would end up with an enormous PR black eye.
However, (3) represents the more serious risk for the NFL owners. The NFL currently enjoys a limited exemption from anti-trust legislation via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. This was passed specifically to allow the NFL teams to collaborate on negotiating broadcasting deals. That is the full scope of the exemption. The NFL teams are not allowed to collaborate on any other commercial matters, or they risk being found guilty of violations of anti-trust law.
This means that evidence of collusion on any matter other than broadcasting rights carries two risks for the NFL. Firstly, it may make it easy for the arbitrator to rule against the NFL in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance hearing. However, secondly, and potentially much more dangerously, it may open the NFL to being charged with broader violations of anti-trust law. The TV broadcasting rights exemption has already come under fire on multiple occasions in the past, with threats being made to repeal the 1961 Act. A clear-cut finding of collusion on any subject could result in the entire act being nuked, leaving the NFL unable to operate as a group in negotiating distribution rights for broadasts of games.
Now…this is where it could get interesting…if the Sports Broadcasting Act was repealed, then theoretically any NFL team could do its own deal for broadcasting rights. They could sign a deal with a network or they could set up their own broadcasting operation with live streaming of games and other exclusive or non-exclusive content. For teams in big media markets (like Dallas, Washington, Seattle, New York etc.) this could actually be more lucrative than the current mechanism where all broadcasting revenues are pooled then distributed equally to all 32 teams. In other words, some of the new-wave aggressive owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder might not care about the loss of the anti-trust exemption, since they may have done the math and concluded that they can make more money selling their broadcast rights direct to the public.
However, any evidence of any sort of collusion will be embarrassing to the NFL, and will increase the chances of a ruling against them on the Kaepernick issue. More seriously, it opens the entire NFL up to complaints of anti-trust violations, which could be very expensive, not for fines, but for other remedies that a court might order. Courts have a LOT of power when punishing violations of anti-trust law.

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Today’s For Fish’s Sakes moment: NFL player protests

Sometimes, The Stupid, it hurts.
And sometimes it goes beyond stupid into the For Fish’s Sakes zone.
The really bad arguments against NFL players have just gone into that zone.
There is a multi-part narrative (I’d call it a theory, but that would be giving it way way too much credit) that comprises the following assertions (again, I’m not calling them arguments because they never have any evidence to back them up):

1. NFL players cannot be oppressed or treated unfairly because they are paid a lot of money to play the game
2. Therefore, NFL players should shut up, be grateful, and play the game.
3. And they should respect the flag and stand for the National Anthem because…if my employer told me to stand to attention for the National Anthem every day I would have to do it, therefore those greedy whiny-ass NFL players should damn well do it too

(3) is bullshit and hokum, and I already wrote about it here. Only idiots, assholes or totalitarian regimes think that it is OK to demand respect and fealty to symbols. Despite the whining of the POTUS, the NFL is not going to mandate that the players stand for the anthem for two compelling reasons:
(1) it is not a requirement in current player contracts under the NFL CBA,
(2) it will likely be ruled a violation of the Constitution by SCOTUS, which has ruled multiple times in the last 75 years that nobody can be compelled to perform those actions. (This is why Roger Goodell, a lawyer, deliberately uses the advisory “should” and not the instructive “shall” when commenting about the current NFL rules).
The argument about other employers not allowing employees to protest on company time is a false equivalence. Technically, the anthem ceremony is not part of an NFL game, and it did not exist prior to 2009 except on special occasions. Any employer, especially in the IT or tech sector, that tried to implement a rule forcing the players to stand daily for the national anthem would immediately drop to the bottom of the list of places to work, and would rapidly lose most of its best people. Young, mobile or highly qualified knowledge workers have a low tolerance for totalitarian horseshit. Most employers would not touch this idea with an extremely long barge pole. They are not stupid.
(2) is also bullshit. Being well-paid confers no obligation on any person to surrender their rights to public comment on any issue. If that were true, we would not be hearing a peep from corporate CEOs, television and movie stars, and famous musical artists. The idea that people should shut up because you might not like what they have to say reeks of totalitarian, intolerant conceit. it’s also an argument I have been reading and hearing for years. It has been bullshit all of that time, and it will continue to be bullshit.
I mean, I want world peace, but I am not entitled to get it any time soon.
NOTE to Daniel Snyder: You can claim that 96% of NFL viewers want the players to stand (wherever that claim came from), but here’s the reality, you authoritarian dickweed; opinion polls and fan surveys do not trump legal or constitutional rights.
(1) is also bullshit, for two reasons.
Firstly, most NFL players do not initially enter into freely negotiated contracts with their employers. They are drafted. A team selects them, and their consent to be drafted by a specific team is legally immaterial. (One or two players, most notably John Elway and Eli Manning, managed to maneuver themselves into playing for the team that they really wanted to play for, but the rarity of such outcomes tells you about how invariable the process normally is).
Secondly, once drafted, NFL players have next to no ability to negotiate their contracts. They are bound by the rookie wage scale, which “slots” player remuneration according to position and draft selection sequence. Any variation is financially minor. The deals are all for 4 years with the team having the option to unilaterally extend for a further year.
Once upon a time, in England, people could be “pressed” into service in the Royal Navy by being, essentially, kidnapped, and placed on board a navy vessel. They were then informed that they were serving in the Royal Navy. No way out existed, since by the time they were actually untied, the ship was already at sea. To me, the NFL entry process for many players looks remarkably like the press gang.
Most NFL contracts are not guaranteed, and a team can essentially fire a player at any time. Now…some players mitigate this via pre-paid bonuses. However, the bottom line is that players are, in most cases, press-ganged into the NFL, and are vulnerable to being fired at any time. I cannot recall that I was ever press-ganged into joining an employer like that.
Now…did the players enter into that sort of arrangement as part of the NFL collective bargaining agreement? Well, yes, and No. The NFLPA agreed to the CBA. However, college football players are not members of the NFLPA, and they certainly did not agree to the CBA. So the players entering the NFL, in most cases are stuck in a process they did not agree to that they cannot vary, where they have no real freedom to negotiate. Now, is that slavery? In the sense of them being forced to work in perpetuity while enduring grinding poverty…No. However, they have a lot less freedom than most regular folks to select an employer, negotiate a contract, and change employers.
Secondly, as most people soon find out, money does not cure all ills or guarantee happiness. The idea that if we all had 10 million dollars we would be happy is a superficially attractive one, but most of us eventually meet people in life, who have a lot of money, who are some combination of miserable or assholes. So the idea “you make a lot of money so you should be happy” is total bullshit. As the old saying goes, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a better class of misery.

Some final thoughts.
An example of the reality that leading practitioners in sports do not forfeit their rights to push for improvements in their sport simply because they are well paid.
When he was driving in F1, Jackie Stewart began campaigning for improvements in car and circuit design and safety, and guess what? Exactly the same arguments being deployed against the NFL players were deployed against him, including “just shut up and drive, you highly paid ungrateful so and so”. People said that motor racing was intrinsically dangerous, and the drivers volunteered to drive, so they knew the dangers and therefore deaths were simply part of the sport. If you want to understand the results of casual acceptance of bad circuit design at the time, Google “helmuth koinigg” (WARNING – Not pleasant viewing).
Jackie Stewart ignored the pushback, and partly due to his advocacy, Formula 1 slowly changed from a sport where at least 1 driver died a year in an accident, and several were forced into retirement due to crippling injuries, to a sport where any serious driver injury is now a rare event.
The NFL is a collision sport, and this always carries risk of injury, although the worst effects seem to be occurring long after players retire, due to body damage and brain trauma. However, the idea continues to be espoused by many NFL fans that the game should be dangerous. This is nothing more than a relic of the prize-fighting mentality, and you don’t have to be a genius to see that a lot of the people making arguments that the NFL is being “wussified” are pretty much the same people who are demanding that the players STFU and stand for the anthem. They are also, from my personal Twitter analysis, mostly elderly white guys (some of them are bots, but that’s another story).
In other words, a lot of the people making the most noise about those nasty un-American players are precisely the sort of people the NFL should not be listening to, because they will not be watching the sport very much longer.

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Colin Kaepernick’s claim against the NFL for collusion

I decided to go read the NFL Collective Bargaining agreement, under which Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance alleging collusion to deny him employment.
The short answer to my questions is that the bar is set pretty high for a finding of collusion, but that if collusion is found to be widespread, the NFLPA can indeed file to terminate the entire CBA.
The CBA contains an entire section on collusion: ARTICLE 17 – ANTI-COLLUSION begins on page 119.
The probable grounds on which Kaepernick is claiming collusion are almost certainly defined in Section
17 (Prohibited Conduct):

(a) No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express
or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit
individual Club decision-making as follows:
(i) whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player;
(ii) whether to submit or not to submit an Offer Sheet to any Restricted Free
Agent;
(iii) whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player…

The enforcement mechanism is defined in Section 5:

Section 5. Enforcement of Anti-Collusion Provisions: Except as provided in Section
16(d) below, any player or the NFLPA, acting on that player’s or any number of players’
behalf, may bring an action before the System Arbitrator alleging a violation of Section 1
of this Article. In any such proceeding, the Federal Rules of Evidence shall apply. Issues
of relief and liability shall be determined in the same proceeding (including the amount
of damages, pursuant to Section 9 below, if any). The complaining party shall bear the
burden of demonstrating by a clear preponderance of the evidence that (1) the challenged
conduct was or is in violation of Section 1 of this Article and (2) caused any
economic injury to such player(s).

The important things to note here are that (1) this is not a court hearing before a judge or a jury; it is an arbitration hearing. (2) the Federal Rules of Evidence apply. This means that full Discovery is allowed as part of a pre-hearing process. (3) the burden of proof is not a criminal burden (beyond “reasonable doubt”) but the civil standard (“clear preponderance of the evidence”).
The remedies for a finding of guilt, however, extend beyond the matter of monetary damages to the player. The ultimate sanction is contained in this section:

Section 16. Termination: The NFLPA shall have the right to terminate this Agreement,
under the following circumstances:
(a) Where there has been a finding or findings of one or more instances of a
violation of Section 1 of this Article with respect to any one NFL season which, either
individually or in total, involved five or more Clubs and caused injury to 20 or more
players; or
(b) Where there has been a finding or findings of one or more instances of a
violation of Section 1 of this Article with respect to any two consecutive NFL seasons
which, either individually or in total, involved seven or more Clubs and caused injury to
28 or more players. For purposes of this Subsection 16(b), a player found to have been
injured by a violation of Section 1 of this Article in each of two consecutive seasons shall
be counted as an additional player injured by such a violation for each such NFL season;
or
(c) Where, in a proceeding brought by the NFLPA, it is shown by clear and
convincing evidence that 14 or more Clubs have engaged in a violation or violations of
Section 1 of this Article causing injury to one or more NFL players.
(d) In order to terminate this Agreement:
(i) The proceeding must be brought by the NFLPA;
(ii) The NFL and the System Arbitrator must be informed at the outset of
any such proceeding that the NFLPA is proceeding under this Section for the purpose
of establishing its entitlement to terminate this Agreement; and
(iii) The System Arbitrator must find that the Clubs engaged in willful collusion
with the intent of restraining competition among teams for players.

Clearly, with only one player grievance, the only grounds on which the NFLPA could apply for the termination of the CBA would be that laid down in Article c (collusion among 14 or more NFL teams). That seems, at first reading, to be a pretty high bar to clear in terms of evidence.
You will also notice that the NFLPA must state before the hearing that they intend, if successful, to apply for the termination of the CBA. They can’t turn around later if the hearing finds in favor of Colin Kaepernick, with proof of more than 14 clubs colluding, and then say “OK now we won, we are terminating the CBA”.

So, there is a spectrum of possible outcomes:

1. Special Arbitrator finds no compelling evidence of collusion; grievance is denied
2. Special Arbitrator finds compelling evidence of collusion among multiple teams, but less than 14 teams are involved; finds in favor of Kaepernick
3. Special Arbitrator finds compelling evidence of collusion among 14 or more teams; finds in favor of Kaepernick and nullifies the CBA IF the NFLPA had requested it as part of the hearing process

I still regard (1) as the most likely outcome, unless a “smoking gun” emerges in the form of informal communications between teams, coaches and/or the NFL. Absent any smoking gun evidence, it will be down to circumstantial evidence, which is unlikely to be compelling enough. Correlation does not equal causation, as the old saying goes. At that point, it then becomes a “court of public opinion” fight.
If (2) is the outcome, the NFL will be on the hook for (I am guessing) up to $50m in damages or more, with a significant public dent in its reputation.
(3) is the NFL’s worst nightmare – the premature end of the CBA, requiring a new CBA negotiation. The current CBA, which is a 10 year agreement with no opt-outs, is generally regarded as more generous to the owners than the previous CBA, which the owners had voided after 3 years in order to force a negotiation for a better deal for them, threatening a lockout as part of the negotiations. The NFLPA is unlikely to be feeling as generous next time around, especially given the strife over the conduct policy enforcement, and things could get messy in a hurry.

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Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL

The decision by Colin Kaepernick to file a collusion grievance against the NFL moves his situation into a new zone.
On paper, the odds are stacked against the grievance succeeding. Collusion, like conspiracy, is extremely difficult to prove, unless “smoking gun evidence” is uncovered that points clearly to a concerted collaborative effort among multiple parties. Since the NFL (officially) is 32 independent teams only collaborating within the limits allowed by its anti-trust exception, the chances that compelling evidence exists are not good. Unless email traffic saying “do not sign Kaepermick” is uncovered, the grievance ultimately becomes an argument based on perception, not evidence.
If this is indeed the case, the filing of the grievance has to be seen more as a PR move than as a legal move. Kaepermick may be hoping to embarrass the NFL into signing him. Or he could have determined that he is never going to get an NFL playing job again, and does not care, in which case a “scorched earth” legal offensive makes sense for him.
One interesting question will be the extent to which the NFLPA will support the grievance. Their attitude towards it may ultimately be the main determinant of how it is resolved. If the NFLPA aggressively supports the grievance, then the NFL may be inclined to settle it rather than risk an ugly public battle.
What is also unclear is how the grievance could or should be settled. What should have already happened (but has not) is for Kaepernick to be signed by a team that desperately needs a quarterback. However, there has been no sign of any team seriously considering signing him, despite several injuries to quarterbacks, the latest being Aaron Rogers suffering a broken collarbone today, which may put him out of action for the rest of the season. The Packers have no experienced backup quarterback, and Kaepernick was born in Wisconsin.
UPDATE – As this article from ProFootballTalk explains, the impact of Colin Kaepernick’s complaint goes far beyond simply addressing his own predicament. If the owners of the NFL can be proven to have engaged in collusion, that is one of the grounds for terminating the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. So a successful complaint by Kaepernick could lead to the dissolution of the current CBA, which currently has over 3 years to run, forcing the NFL and the owners to negotiate a new CBA with the players.

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The F1 engine supply mess

THe current complicated negotiations involving Mclaren, Honda, and Scuderia Toro Rosso are said to be reaching a conclusion over the Monza Grand Prix weekend.
The situation is complicated partly because none of the other F1 power unit suppliers are keen to supply Mclaren. Earlier in the season, Mclaren was said to have an outline deal in place to return to being a Mercedes customer from 2018. However, that proposal seems to have disappeared off the table. Mclaren cannot sensibly obtain Ferrari power units because the two companies compete in the luxury car market. That left only Renault, but the French company is publicly reluctant to expand to supplying a fourth team.
Numerically, the three other power unit suppliers currently supply three teams each. Under the terms of the current power unit regulations, if Honda withdraws from Formula 1, one of those suppliers will end up supplying Mclaren in 2018. Here is a summary explanation from Fabrice Lom, the FIA Head of Powertrain:

For the obligation to supply: the idea was to have no team that is not able to have access to a power unit. This was a big part of the discussion because we also don’t want people to be able to play with that and to change from one power unit to another from one year to another in order to have the best one. So there is a quite complex system in place, but the basic [premise] is that if you are a team with no offer, so nobody is offering you a power unit, you can ask the FIA to have one and there is a system of ballots. So we will take the power unit that has the smallest number of customers. If there is only one, this will be the one that will be required to give the power unit. If there is more than one there will be a ballot between the two to decide which one will supply, and there is a low price of €12m from 2018 for this supply.

This rule is one that none of the power unit suppliers wants to see invoked. If Honda does withdraw, one of the current suppliers will, by ballot, be told to supply Mclaren with power units for 2018 for the bargain price of €12m, a price which may not even cover their costs.
So…Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault would much prefer that Honda stays, in order to avoid that scenario. They want to negotiate their own power unit supply contracts, not have a supply contract mandated for them.
So, there is a deep imperative by the FIA and LibertyF1 to ensure that Honda stays in F1. The ideal current solution is essentially a power unit supply swap where Toro Rosso has Honda power units in 2018, and Mclaren has Renault power units. However, that requires Mclaren to negotiate an end to its current contract with Honda. Since that contract was 10 years in duration with lots of money attached, that is proving difficult. Honda is also said to be demanding that any Toro Rosso contract contains the option for Honda to supply Red Bull racing from 2019 onwards, since the Toro Rosso driver line up does not contain a world champion.
So, all of this, as Jean Todt admitted, complicated…

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Not much money and a lot of accountability – the life of an NFL kicker

The recent release of Roberto Aguayo by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has shone the spotlight firmly on the lives and challenges of NFL kickers.
Aguayo’s release was long expected. He had been drafted in the second round by the Buccaneers in 2016. That was unusual, since teams seldom use high draft picks on kickers or punters. The last time a team used a first round pick on a kicker was the Oakland Raiders’ selection of Sebastian Janikowski. That pick definitely worked well – Janikowski is still playing 15 years later and still booting the ball a great distance.
Needless to say, when Aguayo began performing poorly, the excoriation was loud, with all manner of comments about how the Buccaneers could have used the pick on a much better player.
Aguayo had kicked poorly all of last year, missing numerous kick attempts during the season, which had put him on thin ice. The Buccaneers brought Nick Folk in to compete with him this offseason. Both men have not exactly set the world alight, but Aguayo’s continued misses in pre-season led to the Buccaneers terminating his contract last week. (the Chicago Bears claimed him on waivers. It will be interesting to see how he performs in a different place).
However, kickers are more likely to have a shorter shelf life in the NFL. The role is as much a mental one as a physical one. The “yips” can affect kickers just like golfers. Suddenly a kicker will begin to mis-hit kicks and send them in other directions than the correct one. The NFL being what it is, this is usually obvious in a game situation, where the team asks the kicker to hit a field goal to tie the game or win it. If the kicker then misses, and the team loses, the kicker is Goat of the day. A couple of those kinds of misses, and the kicker is either fired, or on thin ice.
There are plenty of kickers in reserve.So teams with a kicking problem can fire the kicker. However, that does not guarantee that their kicking situation will improve. The Buccaneers are discovering this. Having fired Aguayo, they only have Nick Folk on the roster, and he is not kicking well either. The Buccaneers week 1 kicker might still be a player who is not currently on the roster.
Churning the kicker and punter positions usually never works well. A few seasons ago, when Tom Coughlin was still their coach, the Jacksonville Jaguars went through about 4 kickers in a season. They had a revolving door at the position, picking up kickers, and then firing them rapidly after they missed in games. The approach led to appalling kicking and punting play, and Coughlin was fired at the end of the season.
Kickers who are “money”, who consistently boot the ball between the uprights in any kind of game situation, are thin on the ground. Adam Vinatieri is still kicking well at age 42, but for every Adam Vinatieri there a couple of dozen kickers who hang around for a couple of seasons before washing out, or hitting consistency issues.
Kickers fall into the same category as quarterbacks in that there is only one player at that position on the field, so if the extra point attempt sails wide right, it is usually the kicker who gets the entire blame. It is like the quarterback who throws the ball to The Other Guys when his receiver is in the right place on the field. In other areas of the game, accountability is more diffuse. Blown assignments in a defensive scheme might result in the opponents scoring a touchdown, but you don’t often hear fans or coaches intimating that an individual player is on thin ice.
Yet kickers are usually paid minimum salary or close to it. They seldom make more than $2m in a season, which is low compared to many other position or skill players who work as part of a unit. They are also treated as expendable in a way that other players are not. The attitude appears to be “Easy come, easy go”. If the kicker misses in a big game, he is often booted himself and replaced by yet another enthusiastic replacement, who may turn out to be no better over the medium term.
I suspect that the fungibility and lack of longevity of kickers is partly due to that attitude.

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