The Dark Underbelly of Vikings Kicking
Note: This article originally appeared on our sister site, purplePTSD.com. In most seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings defense is the facet of the game that compels buttocks to seats. As of late, though, Zimmer’s team is constructed on a foundation of offense with Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson. But in almost all seasons of Zimmer’s reign, some semblance of the kicking game is suspect. This started especially as the 2015 season was depressingly punctuated. Otherwise-successful kicker Blair Walsh shanked a 27-yard field-goal at home during the postseason versus the Seattle Seahawks. He should have converted the field goal, and the Vikings should have traveled to Arizona for a date with the Cardinals in the NFC’s Divisional Round. Instead, based on playoff seeding, the Seahawks went on to Carolina and lost at the hands of the Panthers, 31-24. The rival Green Bay Packers were then dispatched to Arizona for a 26-20 loss to Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. That Blair Walsh gaffe seemed to resurrect Vikings kicking woes. Although, Minnesota encountered an egregious kicking folly in the 1998 NFC Championship, so fans simply assume the kicking was pervasively bad from that moment on. It really was not statistically, but the painful memories remained tangible. Walsh’s miss was the new beginning of kicking troubles for Zimmer and the Vikings. “It’s always something for Minnesota and kickers” is the sentiment. From the Walsh moment forward, this is effectively true.
Field Goal PercentageWalsh missed his kick to finish out the 2015 campaign. It was the final time second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would start a game for the Vikings. It was also the last time the Vikings would suit up for a game at TCF Bank Stadium. The franchise opened the humongous doors at U.S. Bank Stadium nine months later. It has been five full seasons since the Walsh debacle. For field-goal kicking, the Vikings have attempted 152 field goals or 1.9 per game since the start of 2016. The team – via various kickers – has converted 123 of them. That is – Minnesota converts 1.53 field goals per game. The success percentage is 80.9%. In the last five seasons, the Vikings miss about one kick for every five attempts. This percentage ranks 26th in the NFL – otherwise known as seventh-worst. The acronyms for the teams that are worse than Minnesota in field-goal kicking during the last five years are (in order of bad to worst): DAL, ARI, CLE, TEN, TB, and LAC. The Walsh turd ushered in an era of bottom-10 field-goal kicking. In the 10 seasons before the Seahawks plunder, the Vikings nailed 86% of field goals – 14th-best in the NFL from 2006 to 2015.
Extra Point Woes – to the MaxThis is where the vomit engulfs your uvula. During the last five seasons, Minnesota is the NFL’s worst extra-point kicking team. Period. There is no sugarcoating it. Since 2016, the team has attempted 221 extra-point kicks – and missed 25 of them. About every three games, the Vikings miss an extra point. The team makes 88% of its extra points. The average team converts 94% of all extra points. The Baltimore Ravens are cream of the crop with this metric, and Justin Tucker and friends drill 98% of extra points. The two teams that joust with the Vikings near last place in this parameter are the New York Jets (91%) and the Cleveland Browns (89%). In case one cannot determine the correlation here, the Jets and Browns have been among the NFL’s worst franchises amid the last five seasons (but the Browns are trending up). Here’s the deal: The Vikings convert extra points like a bottom-feeding NFL team. It’s particularly strange because per wins and losses, Zimmer’s bunch is a Top 10 franchise since 2016.
Kicker Personnel CarouselMinnesota has employed four kickers at the position during the last half-decade: Blair Walsh (8 games in 2016), Kai Forbath (21 games), Daniel Carlson (2 games), and Dan Bailey (36 games). Per field goal conversion percentage, Forbath is the most profitable – he made 88% of field goals. But he had extra-point problems which directly led to his exit from the organization after the 2017 season. During the same period, the Packers have rostered just one kicker, Mason Crosby. The same goes for the Detroit Lions – Matt Prater — for the entirety of five seasons. The Chicago Bears exceed the Vikings girth at kicker turnover. The Bears have auditioned five kickers in five seasons but somehow make field goals and extra points with more proficiency than the Vikings. The carousel may continue into 2021. Current kicker Dan Bailey struggled down the stretch in 2020, and general manager Rick Spielman signed journeyman Greg Joseph to vie for the gig this summer.