— Ben Garland (@BenGarland63) April 28, 2019
Ever since Blair Walsh shanked a field goal wide-left at the end of the 2015 season, Vikings fans have lived in fear of field goals. With an unexpected pick at the end of the recent NFL draft, Minnesota coaches may be close to solving the kicking curse once and for all.
Missed field goals are always blamed on the kicker. Special teams coach Mike Priefer blamed Walsh’s woes on weight loss, while fans faulted the Vikings for bringing in the wrong guys to try to solve the riddle. Blame as you wish, but it seems suspicious that a promising rookie like Daniel Carlson would fold so fast, or that the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history (Dan Bailey) would suddenly struggle with the Vikings. Consider this: it might not be the kicker’s fault.
Now that’s a hot take, but hear me out. Through all the shifts in personnel, there have only been two constants: special teams coach Mike Priefer, and long snapper Kevin McDermott. Kevin has been with the Vikings since Walsh’s troubles began in 2015, and Priefer left this year. During the draft, GM Rick Spielman chose to bring in rookie Austin Cutting to create some competition.
The long-snapping position is often overlooked, but it may be more critical to kicking than fans think. A skilled snapper will deliver the football cleanly and consistently to the holder at the exact right moment, and the ball should also go through the correct number of revolutions in the air to avoid “showing laces” to the kicker when it’s placed on the ground. McDermott was Blair Walsh’s snapper during his infamous miss, and he did indeed show him laces.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Kevin since he replaced Cullen Loeffler in 2015, and Bailey spoke highly of him upon his arrival back in September: “Kevin is obviously really good at what he does.” That being said, Vikings kickers seemed to have a lot less trouble when Loeffler was around. Minnesota’s current long snapper also lost a chunk of his finger in a wild game against the Rams last season, and that could certainly impact his ability to consistently snap the ball.
It’s hard to judge how good of a job Kevin has done, but I’m glad the Vikings are leaving no stone unturned this season. Austin Cutting of the Air Force Academy was one of the top long snapping prospects in this year’s crop, and he might be able to help Spielman finally crack the case.
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