Taking A Reflective Look On Minnesota’s Troubled History With Kickers
It’s been a tumultuous year for Vikings’ kicker Greg Joseph. Every time he steps up to make a crucial kick, fans are overridden with anxiety. That’s mostly because of his roller coaster performance this year. Let’s compare two of his kicks this year to put this into context. Here’s his game winning kick earlier this season against the Lions.
And here’s his missed kick against the Cardinals.
Every game, Joseph looks like a different player. In their most recent game against the Steelers, the Vikings got bad Greg Joseph. Joseph missed a kick and an extra point in the first half alone. He’s taken a lot of well deserved criticism, but Vikings’ fans also have a tendency to overreact to missed kicks. Considering the Vikings’ history with missed kicks, the fans have every right to overreact. Let’s take a look at the events that have led the Vikings to have 4 different kickers since 2016.
The 1998 NFC Championship Game
It’s 1998 and after a 3 year run of mediocre seasons, the Vikings are finally good. Not only are they good, they might just be the best team in the NFL. Going into the NFC Championship, many people had picked the Vikings as their favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Vikings had gone 15-1 in the regular season and at that time, had broken the record for most points scored in an NFL season. Randall Cunningham was slinging the ball to elite wide receivers Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss. The Vikings felt like a team of destiny, finally about to break the Vikings’ Super Bowl curse. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case.
In retrospect, the 1998 NFC Championship was a thrilling game. The Vikings were dominant in the first half, only to let the Falcons back into the game after halftime. Leading 27-20 late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings sent in kicker Gary Anderson to go for 3. Anderson hadn’t missed a kick in 2 years. Then, this happened.
When it mattered most, Anderson couldn’t come in clutch. The game would go into overtime and the Falcons won 30-27. If Anderson had made that kick, the game never would have gone into overtime and the Vikings would have gone to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976. The effects of this game are still being felt today by Minnesota. Considering the Vikings have only played in 2 NFC Championships since 1998, that Super Bowl ring would have been really nice.
The 2015 Wild Card Game
Fast forward to 2015 and the Vikings find themselves in a very similar position to the 1998 season. The Vikings had won the division for the first time since 2009. The Vikings offense is stacked with weapons. Teddy Bridgewater is a quarterback with potential, Stefon Diggs is a rookie, and Kyle Rudolph is in his prime. The best offensive weapon is Adrian Peterson, who is still playing at an elite level. Add that to a defense full of young talented players like Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, and Linval Joseph. The Vikings feel like a dangerous team capable of making a run in the playoffs.
All of this led to a wild card game against the Seahawks were not much happened. The game was slow, due to great defenses on both teams and frigid temperatures. The Vikings led by 9 points all the way to the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, Seattle was able to score a field goal and a touchdown. This led to one of the most infamous scenes in recent Vikings history. Blair Walsh lined up to make a game winning kick with only seconds left in the game.
To Walsh’s credit, the wind was a factor in the game. But to miss a field goal in such an important game led to heartbreak for Vikings fans. Considering that Mike Zimmer was their for that game and is still the current head coach, Walsh’s field goal impacted how Minnesota handled it’s kickers for the next 5 years. When a kicker struggles, the Vikings cut them loose. The Vikings are on their fourth kicker since that infamous field goal, only 6 years ago.
So What Do the Vikings Do With Greg Joseph?
Watching Greg Joseph miss kicks is like reliving a horrible Vikings’ memory every time it happens. If it comes down to a field goal in a playoff game this season, do we really trust Greg Joseph to go out there and finish the job? This kind of mentality has led the Vikings to have a carousel at the kicker position since Blair Walsh. Daniel Carlson, Kai Forbath, and Dan Bailey all find themselves in the Vikings’ kickers graveyard since 2016. Why? They’ve all struggled at separate times, only to be replaced. This kind of mentality is hurting the Vikings more than helping.
When a rookie quarterback struggles, you don’t cut them after 1 year. You might bench them, but you continue to coach and develop them. The Vikings continually signing new kickers doesn’t allow them to coach up talented, young players. Greg Joseph has shown a lot of promise. Despite his misses, he’s made most of his kicks this year. Joseph is still young and has shown signs of potential. The Vikings need to put faith in Joseph and show that they’re willing to let him grow as a player. There may be some growing pains, but this move will payoff in the long run. Having a clutch, long term kicker is something every team needs and Joseph has the talent to be that.
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