On this site over the next couple weeks you’ll read previews for each of the New England Patriots’ position groups. One group that won’t be previewed, obviously, is kicker, there aren’t a group of kickers, just the one guy, but our kicker is hardly just one guy. Stephen Gostkowski has been the best kicker in the NFL since entering the league in 2006 to replace Adam Vinatieri.
Gostkowski got a good bit of press last year for breaking the record of most consecutive extra points without a miss, breaking the old record of 422 previously set by Matt Stover. Pretty cool stat and great for Gostkowski for getting some deserved national attention and exposure, but he has been, and will be, a lot more than that record; he’s an all-time great kicker.
Gostkowski’s 29th on the all-time field goal list with 276 makes, and at only 32 has a good 5-10 years (minimum) to add to that total. If he follows his quarterback’s lead and plays till he’s 40 while averaging a reasonable 30 made field goals a season he’d make it all the way up to third all time.
At this point I’d like to give a shout out to Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson who have made 565 and 538 field goals, respectively, first and second all time. Both exited the league right before I started to follow, so I wasn’t familiar till I researched for this article. That’s a lot of made field goals. Andersen played 25 years and Anderson played 22, Gostkowski’s played 10. If he plays as long as either of those guys (or Vinatieri who is the more modern blue print, ranking 3rd all time and having played 20 years) he’s going to shatter some records.
With such a long way (hopefully) to go in his career, his counting stats pale in comparison to the impressiveness of his efficiency statistics. Gostkowski is one of three players with four years of making over 90% of his field goals (minimum 10 attempts). Only Vinatieri made his field goals at a 90% clip five times.
At this point I’d like to point out how much I dislike Vinatieri, despite his winning three Super Bowls for the Patriots. Why’d he have to go to the Colts? I just hate it. He lives on with me as The Guy Who Went To The Colts just like Ray Allen is The Guy Who Went To The Heat and Wes Welker is The Guy Who Blew The Super Bowl AND Went To The Broncos. I really don’t like Wes.
Gostkowski is also one of eight players to have a career field goal percentage greater than 87%. All eight of those players are active and Gostkowski attempted more than 150 field goals than anyone else on the list. He’s been above his career average each of the last three years, look for him to keep that up in 2016.
Finally, Gostkowski is 6th on the all-time extra point percentage list (greater than 100 attempts) at 99.8%, again having kicked around 200 more extra points than anyone above him, four of the players are active and bound to screw up at some point.
More than his stats though, Gostkowski has given a feeling of safety to Pats’ fans for the past decade; when that kick goes up, we have the utmost confidence it’ll sail through the uprights, often down the middle and, if it’s a long kick, with 10 yards to spare. After a receiver drops a pass or a running back smashes into the line for no gain or Brady misses a target and hissy-fits off the field we get to see Gostkowski trot onto the field, and we feel okay. He’s the sunset at the end of a rough day.
The guy who appears to be the next Gostkowski’s is Dallas’ Dan Bailey, who sports a career field goal percentage above 90% and has yet to miss an extra point in his five year career. Being in a high power offense is of great importance to a kicker who can only score if his team puts him in a place to do so. Bailey may struggle to keep his counting stats up as Tony Romo declines into his 30’s. It appears Gostkowski won’t have any such problem as Brady seems able, and more importantly willing, to keep going as long as he can.