Placekicker Daniel Carlson was a fifth-round draft choice for the Vikings in 2018. He had shown tremendous ability to boom kicks while at Auburn. He made his one field goal try in the Vikings’ season opener, then missed three in Lambeau Field — including a 38-yarder at the end of overtime that resulted in a 29-29 tie — and was cut the next day by angered coach Mike Zimmer.
The fact a draftee with high potential could get axed after two games confirms this theory: There’s no job where the standard for excellence has increased more than placekicking.
In today’s NFL, all interceptions thrown by a quarterback are treated as gross misdemeanors, but every field goal missed from 55 yards or closer is a felony.
Fred Cox, the stocky former fullback who served as the Vikings’ placekicker from 1963 to 1977, died Wednesday at 82. And you can look back at Cox’s career field goal percentage (62.0), smile and say: “I wonder how long Freddie would have lasted with Zim?”
Then again: Cox was 50% (12-for-24) in his first season kicking for Norm Van Brocklin, and the 1963 league average was 49.6. By Freddie’s last year of 1977, when straightforward kickers were becoming obsolete, the soccer-style infusion still left the NFL’s percentage of made field goals at 58.2%.
Vikings legendary trainer Fred Zamberletti told me he knew the Vikings were in trouble vs. KC in Super Bowl No. 4 when he saw the Chiefs’ Jan Stenerud warming up.
“I never had seen a ball stay in the air for so long,’’ Zamby said.
Yet, remember this: It wasn’t simply the style that limited Cox and other kickers of his era — it was being outdoors, in the wind and late-season cold, on baseball fields of thin, dormant grass and infield dirt.
In 1970, Cox made 30 of 46 field goals, for a team of stout defense and feeble offense. In that 12-2 season, he did his kicking in 13 baseball parks and Harvard Stadium (vs. the Patriots).
Our guy Freddie must have shook his head every time he walked into the Metrodome and said, “These kickers are stealing money.”
• Cox in the rivals’ ballparks: five games vs. Packers in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, eight games vs. Bears in Wrigley Field and 12 games vs. Lions in Tiger Stadium.
• Cox was a career 100% passer for minus-1 yard. In the 1970 opener at Met Stadium, he picked up a blocked field goal and flipped the ball to Oscar Reed.
• Cox’s career percentage goes to 65 if you take away the 50-yarders. He was 280-for-431 inside 50 and 2-for-22 from 50 and longer.
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