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The Evolution of the NFL Place-Kicker

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Usually regarded as non-athletes, NFL placekickers nonetheless are absolutely critical to their team’s success. Since the sport is called “FOOTball,” the players who make their living booting an odd-shaped, inflated pigskin are frequently overlooked at best and taken for granted at worst. But their contributions to the most popular sport in the nation can’t be written off nor can they be compartmentalized as mere “specialists,” even though technically, that’s exactly what they are.

In the NFL’s early years, kickers were more often than not the team’s best athlete, and it wasn’t until the late 1940s that teams began to comprehend the importance of having an effective kicker, whether it was a punter or placekicker. The first recognized placekicking “specialist” was Ben Agajanian. Agajanian kicked in high school and then in college for New Mexico. While in college, Agajanian tragically lost four toes on his kicking foot in an accident but he persisted in kicking, doing it well enough to kick for ten different professional teams before retiring in 1964.

Agajanian’s success as a “kicker-only” didn’t convince the league as a whole to adopt the position, and kickers continued to play other positions. Notable players such as Lou Groza (OT), Lou Michaels (DE), Paul Hornung (RB), Frank Gifford (WR), Pat Summerall (WR) George Blanda (QB), Gino Cappelletti (WR) and Keith Lincoln (RB) were standouts at their “normal” positions in addition to handling kicking chores. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that teams began to employ full-time kicking specialists, with Blanda being the last kicker to also play at another position.

For decades, placekickers utilized the “straight-on” approach, kicking the ball with the toes. This technique elevated the ball quicker and higher, but that method was about to become archaic with the introduction of the soccer-style approach. In 1964, the Buffalo Bills of the AFL signed Pete Gogolak, a Hungarian-born Cornell graduate who booted with the instep of his foot after approaching the ball at an angle. This technique caused the football to come off the foot at a lower trajectory but produced dramatically longer kicks. To offset the lower elevation, teams began placing the holder’s position a few feet further back to avoid blocks. Gogolak’s impact was almost immediate, and other teams soon began scouring soccer clubs and foreign countries for potential candidates. Gogolak’s younger brother Charlie, who played collegiately at Princeton, became the first placekicker to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Washington Redskins chose him in 1966, and by the end of the 1960s, soccer-style kickers were the norm rather than the exception. However, the straight-on placekickers had one final “moment” in 1970 when Tom Dempsey, a traditional kicker with the New Orleans Saints who was born without toes on his right (kicking) foot, booted an NFL-record 63-yard FG (since equalled by three other kickers). The last straight-on placekicker (to date) was Mark Moseley who retired after the 1986 season. Moseley is notable for being the only placekicker to be named the NFL’s MVP (1982), while with the Washington Redskins.

Another non-traditional kicking method emerged when Tony Franklin, who kicked barefooted, joined Philadelphia in 1979, going on to become one of the league’s most accurate kickers. Another successful barefooted kicker was Rich Karlis, who somehow managed to kick without a shoe for several seasons in the frequently frigid climate of Denver.

The NFL’s all-time record for the longest field goal (63 yards) is shared by four players: The already-mentioned Dempsey (1970), Jason Elam (1998), Sebastian Janikowski (2011) and David Akers (2012). Dempsey’s was the only FG that was a game-winner, while the other three all occurred at the end of the first half.

Despite the obvious importance of the placekicker, Jan Stenerud of the Kansas City Chiefs is the only full-time kicking specialist to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Blanda and Groza are also enshrined, but they were regulars at other positions. This is a bit puzzling since the NFL’s Top 25 career scorers are all placekickers. Perhaps this oversight is due to the misguided belief that these talented specialists are still considered to be “non-athletes.” This widely-held assumption is reflected in the NFL’s annual player draft, with only four kickers in the history of the draft to be selected in the first round (Gogolak, Washington 1966, Steve Little, St. Louis 1978, Russell Erxleben, New Orleans 1979 and Janikowski, Oakland 2000).

TOP FIVE SCORERS IN NFL HISTORY
1. Morten Andersen 2,544 points (1982-2007)
2. Gary Anderson 2,434 points (1982-2004)
3. Jason Hanson 2,150 points (1992-2012)
4. John Carney 2,062 points (1988-2010)
5. Matt Stover 2.004 points (1991-2009)

TOP FIVE ACTIVE SCORERS (Placekickers) IN THE NFL
1. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis 1,966 points
2. David Akers, Detroit 1,706 points
3. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland 1,464 points
4. Jay Feely, Arizona 1,397 points
5. Phil Dawson, San Francisco 1,356 points

5 NFL Sleeper Teams To Watch For In 2013

Green Bay Packers vs St. Louis Rams

The 2013 NFL season is only a couple weeks away. For some teams, training camp has already begun. For others, training camp will be in full swing by the end of the weekend. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five teams that are going to surprise everyone in 2013.

1) Miami Dolphins

Everyone knows that Ryan Tannehill is a promising young quarterback. Although inconsistent last season, he came on strong toward the end of the year. With the addition of wide receiver Mike Wallace, the Dolphins offense should be able to stretch the field with ease. On defense, third overall pick Dion Jordan should help Cameron Wake see more one-on-one match-ups on the edge. That will lead to a more effective front seven and a more effective defense overall.

2) Cleveland Browns

The Browns have dominated the headlines this offseason thanks to owner Jimmy Haslam’s indictment for rebate fraud. However, Cleveland has done a lot of good things since last season ended. They added Barkevious Mingo in the first round of the draft to add some youth and pass rushing ability to their defense. Luring Paul Kruger away from the Ravens is another boost to their defense. If Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon and Trent Richardson mature in their second seasons, the Cleveland offense could be something to take seriously in 2013.

3) St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford is about to experience something new this season that he has never had before. For the first time in his career, he will have the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive years.

Young players need stability to thrive. Quarterbacks need that stability even more. In addition to that, the Rams signed Jake Long to play left tackle. If he is healthy, Bradford should be given time in the pocket to tear up opposing defenses.

On defense, Janoris Jenkins is about to move from prized rookie to shutdown cornerback that everyone fears. Although St. Louis plays in the upstart NFC West, they should win enough games to compete for at least a wildcard.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers made two significant moves this offseason. The first was to sign cornerback Darrelle Revis to a long-term contract. While it may take some time for him to get back to his old self following an ACL injury last season, there is no doubt that he makes the Bucs defense one to be taken a little more seriously.

Their other significant move was to sign receiver Mike Williams to a six-year contract worth up to $40 million. Alongside Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay has two receivers who are signed for the long-term. Combined with Doug Martin, the offense could be something to fear if Josh Freeman shows some consistency.

5) Detroit Lions

We all know that Matthew Stafford can throw for at least 4,500 yards this season. Calvin Johnson is going to catch at least 100 passes and make a run at 1,500 receiving yards or more. The question is if the Lions can create any type of a running game. If Mikel LeShoure can stay healthy, he and Reggie Bush could provide the Lions offense with a balance that it didn’t have last year. If the Lions can score a lot of points this season, they should be able to rebound back to where they were two years ago.

The NFL season always provides a lot of drama and unpredictable results. Prior to 2012, no one thought that Detroit would have fallen to 4-12 or that the NFC West would have become such as strong division. That is why all five teams on this list have a realistic chance of turning the tide as they enter the 2013 season regardless of their histories of losing.

Three Reasons Why Teams Should Avoid Handing Out Big Contracts To Players

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It seems like the cool thing to do these days to hand ridiculously large contracts to professional athletes. In 2013, several major league players have been handed contracts in excess of $20 million per year. However, is it worth it to pay one player so much when the entire team needs to play well to win games? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why it may not be the best idea to overpay a player.

It Prevents Roster Flexibility

If your star player gets hurt, how do you replace that player without spending too much money? Unless you have a player already on the roster who can replace the production that you were getting from your star player, it will be hard to trade for or sign another player of equal productivity.

On the flip side, if that player doesn’t play well, you can’t sit a player who is making $10,000 or more per game. That is a waste of money, and the fans will remind you about that each game that the struggling player sits. Therefore, you have no choice but to put a struggling player in the lineup when someone else could be getting the job done in his place.

Team Chemistry Can Be Altered

Over the past several seasons, teams in all sports have tried their luck at assembling rosters full of talented players in the hopes of making the playoffs. However, most of those efforts failed or took awhile to get going.

The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL went 8-8 with a supposed dream team in 2011, the Miami Heat started 9-8 the first season that LeBron played for them and most recently, the Dodgers and Blue Jays have stumbled out of the gate after acquiring many high priced players.

Why is it hard to win when you spend so much money? Part of it is the pressure of living up to the contract as well as having never played with your teammates before. Ideally, a team wins when it has players who have grown up together and have learned a single style of play together.

Athletes Get Old Quickly

Alex Rodriguez is the perfect example of why you don’t give an older player a long-term contract with a lot of guaranteed money. At the age of 38, Rodriguez is still owed $100 million over the next five years. However, there is little chance that he will see the field much for the Yankees this season or any season after that. He is doing nothing but holding the team hostage at this point. Unfortunately, the Yankees have no one to blame but themselves in this case. It should be a warning sign to teams in the future to offer either many years or a large annual salary instead of both.

Justin Verlander has over 200 million reasons to smile over the next several seasons. However, if he doesn’t bring a World Series to Detroit, the fans may wonder if he is worth the money. Management may be on the hook as well if the deal doesn’t pan out as the team hopes it will. Overall, players who earn large guaranteed contracts have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose.

Five Free Agents Who Got Paid Way More Than They Deserve

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Each March, the NFL free agency period sees players signing outrageous contracts with teams desperate to upgrade their rosters. Although these players have the right to get as much money as they can, they typically get paid more than they are worth. The 2013 free agency period was no exception. These five players got more than they deserved and may find themselves unemployed in a year or two because of their large cap number.

1) Andy Levitre, Tennessee Titans

There is no question that Levitre is a solid player. In his five seasons with the Bills, he never missed a single game. Additionally, he showed his versatility by playing guard, center and left tackle during his time with the Bills. The problem is, he is at his best when playing the guard position. Guards are easily replaced through the NFL draft or by picking up a former tackle off of the waiver wire. The Bills have shown how effective this can be in the past couple of seasons. Ultimately, his $7 million a year salary is much more than he should have gotten.

2) Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins

Mike Wallace is a speedy receiver who also has the height to catch jump balls thrown his way. The only problem with Wallace is that he is only good when running in a straight line. Against college defensive backs, this wouldn’t be a big deal. If he were running track, this might be a strength. However, against NFL defensive backs, you have to be able to do more than just run in a straight line. The Dolphins will ultimately regret playing roughly $12 million a year for a guy who may not be any more productive than Brandon Marshall.

3) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

There have been rumors that Bowe takes plays off and doesn’t give his best effort on the field. If these rumors are true, it will spell trouble for the Chiefs. When you consider that Alex Smith isn’t going to dazzle you with down the field throws, Bowe may have a hard time putting up the type of numbers that justify getting paid more than $10 million a season. Additionally, you have to worry about what might happen if he gets injured. No matter who you are giving that type of money to, you are taking a gamble that may or may not pay off. Kansas City was probably better off drafting a receiver or trying to sign another receiver for Smith to throw to.

4) Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills

When he was drafted with the number 11 pick in the 2007 draft, many experts thought that the Bills were getting one of the best corners in the draft. Unfortunately, McKelvin has not panned out. However, that didn’t stop the Buffalo Bills from handing him $5 million a year to be a punt returner and maybe even play a little cornerback. While some teams may have matched that deal in free agency, it’s a price that may be a little too steep for a guy who may only play a few snaps a game on defense.

5) Jake Long, St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams signed Jake Long to a contract that will pay him $8.5 million a year. While that doesn’t sound like a lot for a premium left tackle, you have to consider that Long has not played like an all-pro for the past couple of seasons. Injury issues and overall declining play have left many people scratching their heads as to why St. Louis would give him so much money. If the move doesn’t pan out, it will represent another big investment in the offensive line that has not worked out for the Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford is never going to develop if there is no one to protect his blindside. The good news for Long is that he is set for life even if he doesn’t play up to his most recent contract.

Free agency in the NFL has always featured signings that were too absurd to believe. The good news this year is that no one was signed to a contract worth $100 million or more. As the free agency period settles down, there are unlikely to be any more signings for large amounts of money. Therefore, it is safe to say that these five players will be among those who got paid way too much by teams desperate to sign anyone with name value.

What Makes the Super Bowl So Controversial?

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The 47th edition of Super Bowl, according to both fans and critics, was the greatest Super Bowl ever held with the Ravens narrowly beating the 49ers to clinch the title of champions. However, it also became notorious for an unexplained power outage 13:22 into the third quarter and R&B superstar Beyonce flashing an illuminati sign during her performance which led to a public outcry and media speculation before the event was over.

The problem with Super Bowl Sunday is that despite of it being the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, it is also the hub of some of the greatest controversies in the history of professional sports. Whether these scandals are staged to generate publicity ahead of football’s mega-event or they are genuine remains unclear. But one thing is for certain. Where Super Bowl goes, scandals follow.

Let’s face it; controversies might have a part to play in those rapid NFL Tickets sales. Here are some of the most scandalous moments in the history of this sporting spectacle.

Super Bowl XIII

Prior to Super Bowl XIII then Dallas Linebacker Thomas Henderson told the media that Pittsburgh Quarterback Terry Henderson “couldn’t spell CAT if you spotted him the C and the T”. Of course everyone knows that it was Bradshaw who had the last laugh when he won Super Bowl MVP with 318 yards passing and 4 touchdowns which led to Steelers winning the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl XLI

Couple of weeks prior to Super Bowl XLI the cops raided the home of the Chicago Bears Defensive Tackle Tank Johnson and uncovered 6 unregistered firearms including 2 assault rifles. Johnson, who was probably preparing for a Zombie apocalypse, had to appear before a circuit judge and plead before him to leave the state so that he could participate in Super Bowl XLI after his team won the NFC.

Super Bowl XXXI

Green Bay Packers Quarter Back and 20 year veteran Brett “Gunslinger” Favre had an interesting 1996 season. On one hand he was named MVP and on the other he struggled with his alcohol and painkiller addiction. The legendary player was spotted partying on Bourbon Street in New Orleans couple of days prior to the beginning of Super Bowl XXXI. Fortunately for him he went onto win the Super Bowl 35 – 21 against the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl XXXV

Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis was arrested after a party when two men were found dead outside a nightclub. Fortunately for the greatest Linebacker of all the time the murder charges were dropped. He subsequently made a successful appearance at the Super Bowl XXXV where he won the championship ring and was named MVP.

Super Bowl XXXVII

Oakland Raiders Center Barret Robbins was sent home during Super Bowl XXXVII by Coach Bill Callahan for not taking his bi-polar medication and being in no position to play.

Super Bowl XX

Chicago Bears Quarter Back Jim McMahon “mooned” the media helicopters that were hovering above the Bears practice facility couple of days prior to Super Bowl XX to figure out if he had recovered from his strained gluteus. McMahon thought he’d give the reporters a very clear view of his injury and decided to bend over and bare his ass.

Super Bowl XXXIII

This is probably the funniest Super Bowl scandal ever. Just days prior to Super Bowl XXXIII, Atlanta Falcons Defensive End Eugene Robinson was honored with a Bart Starr Award for being a man of high moral character.

A day before the game he was arrested for picking up a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover cop. To add insult to injury, on game day he couldn’t play well which resulted in his team’s 34 – 19 loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl I

It was the very first Super Bowl when the very first controversy started. Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Max McGee didn’t think he would make the team for the mega event and decided to party all night, drinking all over LA.

Come championship game the legendary Vince Lombardi decided to send McGee in. What happened later is history. A severely hung-over McGee completed 7 passes for 137 yards and 2 TD’s as the team won 35 – 10.

Super Bowl XLI

Super Bowl XLI’s half-time show is popular for one thing only. A silhouette image of recording artist Prince created by spotlight on a huge curtain, with his guitar placed between his legs. Prince played an entire guitar solo in that position which made him look like he was jerking off.

 Super Bowl XLVIII

Who can forget Super Bowl XLVIII? Justin Timberlake “accidentally” ripped the top of his duet partner Janet Jackson during the performance to reveal her glorious assets to the world. This MTV produced segment led to a public outcry and set the social media websites abuzz.

One thing has become certain. Controversies are to Super Bowl what flowers are to bees.