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How rookie kickers did in the 2010s

The Rams will be looking to find some first-year success from someone’s foot next season

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Larry French/Getty Images

Clint Stitser is a real estate agent at Stitser Properties in Reno, Nevada. As you can imagine, it’s his company and I’m sure he’s living a dream by being able to use his master’s degree in business from Fresno State to sell beautiful homes in the area he grew up in.

But a decade ago, Stitser was living another dream entirely and given his short track record it’s a bit of a wonder why he’s selling homes in Nevada rather than selling out in front of a home crowd in the NFL.

After all, he only missed one career field goal try.

At the same time that he was getting his MBA — and in the three years before he got his real estate license in 2008 — Stitser was kicking field goals and PATs for the Fresno State football team. In 2005, he made 10-of-12 field goal tries and 29-of-30 extra points. The next season, 11-of-16 and 31-of-33. Then as a senior, 47-of-49 and 16-of-24. Stitser’s field goal percentage was not too impressive (71.2%) and he missed five extra points in those three years but Stitser was at least experienced and the NFL is always ready to give an opportunity to any kicker because frankly it seems impossible to predict their futures given the volatile nature of the position.

As expected, no team drafted Stitser when he became available to the league in 2008. Nobody signed him that year. Nobody signed him in 2009 either. Then in 2010, the New York Jets signed Stitser to compete with Nick Folk — a player who had a 63.8% field goal rate in college and who has had a 12-year career in the NFL. Folk won the job (it wasn’t really a competition, more of a camp body) and remained with the Jets for seven years.

Stitser ended up playing one preseason game with the Seattle Seahawks, who waived him on Aug. 31. Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals called.

Now 11 games into the 2010 season, the Bengals were 2-9 and had lost kicker Mike Nugent to a knee injury. Replacement Aaron Pettrey missed from 43 and 27 in his two games (the only two career games he’d ever have) and that’s when they signed Stitser.

In his first game, a showdown against the 9-2 New Orleans Saints, Stitser was good from 29, 23, and 47 yards. His final kick, the one from 47, gave Cincinnati a 30-27 lead with 4:20 remaining. On the ensuing drive, Drew Brees found Robert Meachem for 42 yards and a neutral zone infraction on 4th-and-2 gave New Orleans a fresh set of downs at the 3 and the opportunity for the game-winning touchdown. But it wasn’t entirely a great debut for Stitser.

In the third quarter, Carson Palmer threw a touchdown pass to TERRELL OWENS (remember that?) to bring the Bengals within eight but Stitser missed the extra point. It did not impact the final score (they later converted a two-point conversion to make up for it) but the extra point problem from college seemed to follow him.

Two weeks later the Bengals had a winning opportunity at home against the Cleveland Browns. In that game, Stitser was good from 25, 39, 34, and 20, and he made his only PAT try. Cincinnati won, 19-17. Stitser was the hero. The next week was another win, this time over the Chargers, but Stitser again missed an extra point.

In his final career game, Stitser missed his only try, a 29-yarder in a six-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Had he made that field goal, the Bengals may have had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds as Carson Palmer had 2nd-and-goal from the Baltimore 2 but failed to score a touchdown.

Stitser was let go by the Bengals in the 2011 offseason, signed with Washington, didn’t make the team, and spent two seasons in the UFL before finally getting his real estate career fully off of the ground and that’s where he stands today. Stitser’s career field goal stats: 7-of-8. His career PAT stats: 8-of-10.

He missed more extra points than he did field goals. According to LinkedIn, Pettrey is working in commercial and residential mortgages.

Stitser is one of 43 rookie kickers in the previous decade to attempt at least six field goal tries. This is relevant to the LA Rams because as of now they have three kickers on the roster — Sam Sloman, Lirim Hajrullahu, and Austin MacGinnis — and they’re all rookies. The Rams may later decide to sign a veteran but as of now it seems they’re content with the cheap rookie route. For salary cap purposes, it may be their best option.

Interestingly enough, one thing I’ve not ever heard mentioned is the usage of rookie kickers in the NFL and how that’s changed in the last 10 years.

In 2010, Stitser was the only rookie kicker to attempt six more tries.

In 2011, there were two: Alex Henery (who was fantastic and then out of the NFL four years later) and Dan Bailey, who remains in the league.

In 2012, there were four: Blair Walsh (fantastic, All-Pro rookie and now out of the league), Kai Forbath, Justin Tucker, and St. Louis’s Greg Zuerlein. The worst of those four that year was Zuerlein but he is now in Dallas, which is where Bailey had been.

In 2013, there was only Caleb Sturgis, now out of the league.

In 2014, a surge of six rookie kickers. The three who remain are Brandon McManus, Cairo Santos, and Cody Parkey.

In 2015, seven more rookie kickers. The three still fighting for life are Jason Myers, Josh Lambo, and Chris Boswell.

In 2016, the league slowed down and there were two rookie kickers: Roberto Aguayo, a second round pick who is now out of the league, and Wil Lutz, a UDFA and one of the best kickers in the league since.

Then in 2017, eight rookies got at least six field goal attempts. All three drafted kickers from that year remain in the NFL — Zane Gonzalez, Jake Elliott, Harrison Butker — as do undrafted free agents Younghoe Koo, Aldrick Rosas, and Ka’imi Fairbairn, who led the NFL in field goal makes and tries in 2018. Rosas went 31-of-33 on field goals that season. Koo went 23-of-26 with the Falcons last season.

Six more rookie kickers came into the NFL regular season in both 2018 and 2019. All told, that’s 14 rookie kickers in the first half of the decade and 29 kickers in the second half of the decade. Why did the NFL double their efforts to look for fresh legs in the last five years?

It could be partially blamed on simply a bad run of kickers coming into the league (you wouldn’t be so quick to cut someone who was helping you win) and it could be similar to the issue impacting running backs right now: that teams don’t want to or can’t afford to pay a veteran kicker $5 million when they could get adequate production from a rookie making $500,000.

It may also have something to do with the fact that Blair Walsh can be considered a better kicker than Justin Tucker one year and then a decade later you realize that Walsh shouldn’t be on a football field and Tucker should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s a wonky position and the Rams aren’t looking for anything more than their kicker for next season. Who knows who could be kicking for the team in 2021.

Forget about 2022.

When it comes to next season, LA will not necessarily be looking for the next Clint Stitser, who was too shaky on extra points and potentially had no deep leg whatsoever. They’d be happy to settle for the next Greg Zuerlein though and take a few field goal misses in exchange for 50-yarders and consistency for about as long as you can reasonably expect from a kicker. But don’t worry about the next Stitser or Pettrey —

They’ll always have a future in real estate.