Craig: Field-goal accuracy begs question — should goal posts be narrowed?

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2013 - 11:56 AM
hide

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh is second all-time in accuracy, making 90.8 percent of his kicks to trail only Justin Tucker of Baltimore, who has hit 92.2 percent of his attempts. Walsh has hit 12 of 14 kicks from beyond 50 yards.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

NFL kickers are becoming so accurate that there is talk of changing the width of the goalposts.

Chances are you’ve never heard of him, but Ward Cuff was quite the NFL placekicking weapon from 1937 to 1947.

Representing the New York Giants, Chicago Cardinals and Green Bay Packers, the Redwood Falls, Minn., native led the league in field goals made four times and field goal accuracy twice.

In 1943, he led both, going 3-for-9 for 33.3 percent. Not bad for someone whose main duty was playing wingback in the Giants’ single-wing offense. The league average that year was 23.5 percent (16 of 68).

In 1967, Jan Stenerud began a 19-year career with the Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. To this day, he’s the only Pro Football Hall of Famer who was exclusively a kicker. His career percentage of .668 ranks 112th in league history.

An NFL goalpost has been 18 feet, 6 inches wide since the league was founded in 1920. But the guys kicking footballs through them certainly have changed. In fact, they’ve changed so much that many people around the league believe it’s only a matter of time before the NFL narrows the goalposts to reduce the expanding range of chip shots and increase the number of times teams go for it on fourth down.

“I think that’s probably something that will be talked about in the offseason,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I know it’s been talked about in the past. That’s probably something that could be coming down the road.”

Thirteen of the top 14 most accurate kickers in NFL history are active. The top two are second-year players Justin Tucker from Baltimore (92.2 percent) and the Vikings’ Blair Walsh (90.8).

“Snappers and holders are as good as ever,” Walsh said. “And kickers are specializing at an earlier age. I started kicking my sophomore year in high school, the same year I started getting specially trained in just kicking. I didn’t play any other position.”

Stenerud made 17 of 64 attempts from 50 yards or longer in 263 games. Walsh has made 12 of 14 in 28 games, including an NFL-record 10 without a miss as a rookie.

Walsh and his contemporaries enjoy numerous modern advantages, including better field conditions and more domed stadiums. They are making the most of them, too.

In 2011, there were a then-record 90 successful 50-yard field goals. In 2012, that record became 92. This year, the pace is set for 95.

The Broncos’ Matt Prater made a 64-yarder in Denver on Sunday. It broke the NFL mark of 63 yards that had been tied only three times since Tom Dempsey set it 43 years ago.

But how long can we expect Prater’s record to stand? A year ago, St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein — aka “Legatron” — had plenty of distance on a 66-yard attempt that was wide right.

Even with this year’s record-breaking pace of 50- and 60-yarders, the league has a combined field goal accuracy percentage of .856 (693 of 810). That would break the record of .845 (845 of 1,000) set in 2008.

“If the percentages stay the way they are, I would not be surprised at all to see the league narrow the goalposts,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “It seems like they don’t want the game to get too easy. And that’s the trend for these young kickers.”

The league already tried doing something with the ball 14 years ago when it introduced the K-ball, which prevented kickers from doctoring the ball to make it easier to kick. Kickers complained but overcame.

“Narrowing the goalposts would not be the smart thing to do, and I don’t think they’ll do it,” Walsh said. “Quarterbacks are throwing for more yards than they ever have. Are we going to start letting the defense use 12 or 13 players to stop them?”

But what if the league does narrow the goalposts?

“If they’re smaller, they’re smaller for everybody,” Walsh said. “We practice with narrower goalposts. So I do think it would be a mistake, but, hey, as long as the middle is still there, you can hit it.”

 

Mark Craig • mark.craig@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Vikings Rewind: Jacoby Jones' 77-yard kickoff return

    Wednesday December 11, 2013

    We look back at the Vikings' fourth quarter decision to short kick to Ravens kickoff returner Jacoby Jones, who scored on the 77-yard return.

  • Net worth of Wilfs soon could be revealed

    Tuesday December 10, 2013

    In New Jersey, Vikings owners are expected to learn what they will have to pay former partners.

  • Mark Craig's Week 15 Power Rankings

    Tuesday December 10, 2013

    mark craig’s power rankings1. Patriots 10-32. Broncos 11-23. 49ers 9-44. Seahawks 11-25. Saints 10-36. Chiefs 10-37. Bengals 9-48. Eagles 8-59. Panthers 9-410. Cardinals 8-511. Dolphins 7-612. Ravens 7-613. Bears 7-614. Lions 7-615. Chargers 6-716....

  • Chart: Kickers are on record pace

    Tuesday December 10, 2013

    KICKING TO RECORD HEIGHTSNFL kickers are on pace this season to break the combined field goal accuracy record of 84.5...

  • NFL Draft Order (Week 14): Vikings jump to fourth

    Tuesday December 10, 2013

    The Vikings suffered a brutal 29-26 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, but their draft selection did improve over the weekend.

  • Broncos kicker Matt Prater, left, celebrated his NFL-record 64-yard field goal with holder Britton Colquitt against the Titans on Sunday in Denver. He beat the NFL record, shared by four others, by 1 yard.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 24 FINAL
Washington 27
San Diego 7 3rd Qtr 9:15
San Francisco 28
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 114 FINAL
New Orleans 88
Utah 86 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Atlanta 104 FINAL
Houston 97
San Antonio 79 4th Qtr 9:23
Dallas 79
Indiana 41 3rd Qtr 6:32
Denver 43
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Philadelphia 7 FINAL
Toronto 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Montreal 4
Washington 4 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Florida 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Chicago 2 FINAL(SO)
Columbus 3
Nashville 4 3rd Prd 12:46
Minnesota 3
Calgary 9:00 PM
Vancouver
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
SMU 62 FINAL
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
IUPUI 71
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 82 FINAL
Butler 73
Marshall 58 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
Lafayette 69 FINAL
Kansas 96
Oral Roberts 63 FINAL
Memphis 78
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Delaware State 70 FINAL
Oregon 83
Fla Atlantic 56 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
Arkansas Tech 57 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 94
Howard Payne 50 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 89
UMBC 66 FINAL
Kennesaw St 53
St Josephs (IN) 54 FINAL
Chicago State 77
Eastern Mich 77 FINAL
Missouri State 65
UCLA 44 FINAL
Kentucky 83
UC Davis 81 FINAL
Air Force 75
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
UC Riverside 78
Davidson 80 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 68
USC Upstate 53 FINAL
Miss State 51
NC Central 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 60
Illinois State 77 FINAL
Murray State 89
Louisiana 85 FINAL
Northwestern St 89
Oakland 77 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
Detroit 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 69
Presbyterian 60 FINAL
UT Martin 77
Monmouth 74 FINAL
Wagner 66
Southern U 39 FINAL
Wyoming 57
Iowa State 83 FINAL
Drake 54
Wake Forest 50 FINAL
Florida 63
High Point 80 FINAL
James Madison 71
Texas Southern 71 FINAL
Michigan State 64
New Hampshire 60 FINAL
Sacred Heart 73
Northeastern 78 FINAL
Santa Clara 72
Huston-Tillotson 56 FINAL
Texas State 90
Purdue 63 FINAL
Notre Dame 94
Prairie View 44 FINAL
Sam Houston St 61
Xavier 88 FINAL
Auburn 89
Bluffton 53 FINAL
Akron 92
NJIT 84 FINAL
Central Conn St 76
Hofstra 77 FINAL
Columbia 82
Boston Univ 62 FINAL
Dayton 78
Iona 81 FINAL
George Mason 86
Valparaiso 75 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 72
Texas A&M 64 FINAL
Kansas State 71
Morgan State 69 FINAL
Manhattan 73
Saint Josephs 75 FINAL
Marist 58
East Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 66
Richmond 65 FINAL
Pepperdine 63
La Salle 67 FINAL
Towson 53
Incarnate Word 110 FINAL
UMKC 104
CS-Bakersfield 59 FINAL
Idaho State 50
Iowa 44 FINAL
Northern Iowa 56
Milwaukee 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 61
Long Beach State 68 FINAL
Texas 78
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
TCU 88
SE Missouri St 57 2nd Half 3:46
Arkansas 79
Lehigh 50 2nd Half 10:00
Arizona State 44
New Mexico 41 2nd Half 15:05
New Mexico St 27
Oklahoma 44 2nd Half 13:26
Washington 51
Utah Valley U 42 2nd Half 11:02
Weber State 53
Jacksonville St 48 2nd Half 9:31
Northern Colorado 45
St Edwards 47 2nd Half 11:11
Grand Canyon 59
NC State 27 1st Half 1:31
West Virginia 37
TX A&M-CC 8 1st Half 8:06
CS-Northridge 11
Cal Poly 13 1st Half 8:08
Gonzaga 15
Fresno State 12 1st Half 7:02
Pacific 16
Montana State 18 1st Half 8:23
Portland 24
Ball State 10 1st Half 11:51
San Diego St 13
South Dakota St 7 1st Half 9:53
Utah State 13
Stanford 10:00 PM
BYU
Utah 10:30 PM
UNLV
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 7 2nd Qtr 6:49
Bowling Green 17
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
FIU 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
UCF 57 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
UMKC 51
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
San Diego State 54
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
Arizona 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 72
Northwestern 92 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 44
Oral Roberts 52 FINAL
Wisconsin 70
Florida Atlantic 44 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
La Salle 76 FINAL
Georgia State 68
(16) Oregon State 73 FINAL
Nevada 50
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
Villanova 49
Delaware 59 FINAL
Cincinnati 67
Troy 75 FINAL
Tennessee St 71
Saint Louis 68 FINAL
Utah Valley U 66
Washington 74 FINAL
UC-Riverside 71
Pacific 43 FINAL
Long Beach St 53
Old Dominion 69 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 63
Austin Peay 24 1st Half 1:44
Montana 30
Lewis-Clark State 6 1st Half 8:56
Idaho 27
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Sunday against Miami?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close