Kickers are the IT professionals of football. They tend to work outside of a traditional team structure, do a job everyone understands in theory but not at all in actual execution, and when they fuck up, everyone gets very angry indeed.
I love them. I love everything about them. I love their lone wolf status. I love that they’re essentially uncoached, leaving it up to them to figure out how the hell they’re supposed to kick a misshapen lump of pig upwards of 60 yards.
Perhaps my love stems from the fact that I grew up a soccer player, an undersized one at that (what up, late puberty!), and the only way I could have any type of participatory fantasy regarding the NFL was to imagine myself a kicker. Other kids my age dreamed of being Joe Montana, tossing that perfect spiral to the end zone. Others saw themselves as Lawrence Taylor, bursting into the backfield and laying down a bone-crunching hit.
Me? I saw myself in the visage of Bill Gramatica.
Anyway, SB Nation has given me a weekly kicker column to discuss any and all things feet. At first I was going to call it Laces Out Marino, then Little Kicky. I also considered Outkick the Coverage. All those sucked, though, so I am going to pay homage to my hero and call this Gramatica Errors.*
*(Thanks to my pal, Zack, who came up with the name, and who said he would give me a wedgie if I didn’t give him credit.)
SCUTTLEBUTT AMONGST THE FOOT GANG
Did you know that there is a corner of the internet that follows kickers and punters very closely? I call them the Foot Gang, though I haven’t told them about that yet and I’m pretty sure they won’t like it.
Chuck Zodda is part of this crew. He writes for the very good website Inside the Pylon, attended the same college I briefly went to, and tweets really interesting kicker stuff that I sort of understand like this:
Forbath's momentum takes him right through his body lean. And that's exactly where the kick goes— Chuck Zodda (@ITP_ChuckZ) September 12, 2017
I DM’ed Chuck on Tuesday to find out what the scuttlebutt with the Foot Gang is. He seemed confused by my question. So I asked him what he and the other Toe Boys were talking about. That outright offended him. I apologized, then asked what he saw this weekend.
He replied: “Lot of [Raiders kicker] Giorgio Tavecchio talk. Kid is good but I worry about some hip stiffness and him falling off to his left too much — could end up missing right if his mechanics get out of whack.”
Look at that. Boom. Bust that out at your next cocktail party. Everything you need to know about Giorgio Tavecchio, who was born in Milan, Italy and also has the name of someone my wife would leave me for. Curse you, you handsome, Italian, kicking bastard. CURSE YOU.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, YOUNGHOE
Chargers kicker, internet sensation, and my best friend he just doesn’t know it yet Younghoe Koo missed a potential game-tying field goal at the end of Los Angeles’ game against the Broncos when his kick was blocked. Some people argued that Koo was partially to blame, as his kick’s trajectory was low and allowed the Broncos’ Shelby Harris to get his arm on the ball, and those people are idiot monsters who deserve to spend eternity choking on a piece of meat.
Zodda, for his part, didn’t blame Koo, saying “the protection was crap — three yards of penetration and the ball's trajectory was fine.”
ESPN’s Mina Kimes, who is somehow less objective about Koo than I am, had a more impassioned defense.
I'm going full Gisele. MY SON YOUNGHOE CANNOT KICK THE BALL AND BLOCK AT THE SAME TIME.— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) September 12, 2017
PATS TO THE LEFT TO THE LEFT
Every time around this year, you get the story that the Patriots only employ lefty punters, as they do this year with Ryan Allen. They do this, the announcers love telling us, because Bill Belichick knows returners have a difficult time picking up the spin on the ball and also because Bill Belichick doesn’t see people as human beings, just collections of body parts that he can use to win another trophy and, thus, for another year at least, keep quiet the ghosts that haunt him.
Also, I know this started out as a kicking column, but we’re gonna have to throw punting in as well because if it’s just kicking this is going to devolve by like Week 3 into Giorgio Tavecchio erotic fan fiction. That still might happen, actually.
JOHNNY BE GOOD
We had a punt-nerd-out go viral this weekend! This doesn’t happen often, but, oh boy, when it does. Former NFL punter Pat McAfee broke down this video of Rams’ Johnny Hekker, and for us in the Laces Brigade this was just like mainlining that good stuff.
The breakdown is wonderful and the punt is flabbergasting — Hekker manages to kick what is, again, a misshapen lump of pig, a pure 50 yards, sideways and with side spin, and lands it perfectly inside an area the size of a VW Golf.
After the game Hekker received a two-year extension on his already existing four-year deal with the Rams, with $10 million guaranteed. Zodda argued in our little DM session that this was actually a bargain for how good he is and how much value he brings to the team. I speak for all of us in the Punt Posse when I say: Get that cheddar, Hekker.
Sebastian Janikowski is still kicking in the NFL. You needed to know this. Though in Week 1 he had a sore back, so the Raiders decided to put him on injured reserve before their game ... clearing the way for Giorgio Tavecchio, that smooth, Milanese son of a bitch. I have my eye on you, Giorgio Tavecchio. And not only for the hip stiffness and mechanical issues which might result in some of your kicks tailing off to the right.