And the lockdown continues.
Remember all those instances where we’ve all said “I’d be able to get so much more stuff done if I just had more time”? Well as I try to think of an excuse why I’ve somehow managed to become even less productive despite having all the time in the world, I figured I may as well knock off another number on our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2019. It’s not like there’s much else to do.
The list so far:
It’s morbidly fitting that there’s nobody around as we get to Moment Number 17, as that’s kind of how it was for the Patriots all season long.
17. The kicker carousel.
The New England Patriots have basically had two head coaches since 1993. They have basically had two quarterbacks since 1993. And they have had basically two kickers since 1996. That absolutely remarkable consistency is a big reason why the Pats have been the most successful dynasty in the history of professional sports.
Another big reason is that the coaches, quarterbacks, and kickers have been nothing short of stellar. Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick are Hall of Famers. Tommy B is the greatest quarterback of all time, and Drew Bledsoe is no slouch either. Adam Vinatieri is another Hall of Famer and the most clutch kicker of all time. His successor, Stephen Gostkowski, has been nothing but phenomenal in filling the shoes of the man who kicked the most memorable field goals in NFL history. Ghost’s 87.3% accuracy rate is good enough for third all-time. His 14 year Patriots career was good for 204 games, 28 postseason contests, five Super Bowl trips, three rings, and the title of New England’s all-time leading scorer. Ghost is also the first player in league history to score 1,000 points in his first eight seasons in the league and holds the record for highest average points per game scored over a career. and is the first player since the merger to lead the league in scoring in more than two consecutive seasons.
Of course, Ghost’s incredible accuracy, success, consistency, and points scored did absolutely nothing to stop a decent number of Patriots fans from chirping about how it was time to cut bait. The NFL is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, especially among the fans, and the 2019 season saw Gostkowski miss 4 out of 15 extra points in the first month while going 7 of 8 on FG attempts - more than enough of a slide for folks to say “it’s time to get a new kicker.”
Well those folks all got their wish on October 2nd of last year, when the Patriots placed Ghost on IR. His hip was apparently bothering him, and whether that was the reason for his accuracy issues or not was irrelevant. His season - and as it would turn out, his Patriots tenure - was over. The Patriots were without a kicker.
Luckily for New England, solid, dependable kickers grow on trees, and they had absolutely no problem bringing in someone else to fill in.
Not so much.
The Patriots ended up going with Nick Folk, eventually...but between Folk, Mike Nugent, and Kai Forbath, it was nothing short of a disaster. Ghost’s fill-ins ended up missing two more extra points and ended up just 5 for 9 on kicks longer than 40 yards. What was once a real strength for the team suddenly turned into a huge weakness, and I know I wasn’t alone in watching almost every single kick attempt of 2019 through my fingers like a child at a scary movie they definitely shouldn’t be watching.
It will be easy to think back to the big misses of Gostkowski’s career and define him by those. But the 2019 Patriots season wasn’t a very good one, despite the 12-4 finish, and one of the reasons why is because the team had to IR one of their most consistent, dependable players and replace him with a hodgepodge of mediocrity. Memorable doesn’t always mean positive, and there’s no way to talk about 2019 as a whole without mentioning the kicker carousel here at Number 17.
For posterity’s sake, check out this montage of Gostkowski’s game-winning field goals and think back to better times.