With Saturday’s game on the line against the Kansas City Chiefs in the closing moments, the Cleveland Browns were about to get a definitive answer on their kicking concerns. Could former draft pick Cade York silence the outside noise and vilify his head coach and general manager after both publicly supported him? More importantly, could York post it on his Instagram story immediately after since he seems like a guy where his haters are his motivation?
Since it’s Monday you probably already know how this goes.
York missed a potential game-winning field goal attempt for the second consecutive preseason game. Sure, Kansas City blocked this one, so we don’t know if it would’ve made it through the uprights. Perhaps Cleveland’s offensive line didn’t properly protect York or York’s kick was too low. Either way, the biggest question and concern for the Browns heading into their preseason finale was centered on kicking. York could’ve silenced the outside noise heading into the regular season but, unfortunately, it’s clear that Cleveland needs to look elsewhere to address their kicking woes.
For context, York is 4 of 8 on field goals in the preseason with four of those misses within the 40-49 yard range. Kicks within that range often determine the final verdict in close games, like the Browns preseason finale loss to the Chiefs on Saturday. Last season, York made 75 percent of his field goal attempts, which ranked him 30 of 33 kickers, according to Pro Football Reference. The average NFL kicker made 83 percent of his field goals last season and based on early returns, it seems York isn’t closing the eight percent gap to be at least average for Cleveland this season.
So now what? There aren’t any other kickers on active Cleveland’s roster but that could change once things are trimmed to the final 53 and a kicking option joins the practice squad. If that route doesn’t bear fruit, the Browns could look at veterans like Mason Crosby (86.2 percent last season) or Randy Bullock (85.0 percent last season) to push York or take over for him as the permanent kicking option. If Cleveland wants to get weird with it, the final option could be to get Invincible and let fans try out for the team.
That last suggestion is mostly a joke but with how dire things are kicking-wise for the Browns, what would they have to lose? For those who don’t know the story, Vince Papale was the oldest rookie non-kicker in the history of the NFL to play without the benefit of college football experience and played several seasons with the Philadephia Eagles. Papale had some professional experience playing for the Aston Green Knights of the semi-pro Seaboard Football League and the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League as a wide receiver.
Papale mostly played on special teams while with the Eagles, appearing in 41 of 44 regular season games and only had one reception for 15 yards. His story inspired the movie Invincible, starring hypothetical 9/11 stopper Mark Wahlberg as Papale. More importantly, though, Papale’s story inspired the idea that given the right circumstances, anyone can make it through to the NFL. It was even cited in the Eagles’ signing of construction foreman Jeff Thomason for 2005’s Super Bowl XXXIX.
So, again, what do the Browns have to lose at this point if they let fans try out to fix their kicking woes? They could even let fans wear their dog masks underneath their helmets or let Pumpkinhead wear his pumpkin helmet instead of the helmet itself. Maybe former Ohio Bobcat and Hudson’s own Jonah Wieland could try out for the team even though he’s a punter. If they want to keep it within the state, there’s also Garrett Russell, who last kicked for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The more you break down this hypothetical, the more pleasant the thought exercise seems compared to the current kicking situation on Cleveland’s roster. Simply put, the Browns cannot afford to let York keep kicking through his issues, hoping he shows the talent that made him a fourth-round draft selection. After the latest meltdown against Kansas City, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski declined to commit to York as the team’s kicking option when the regular season opens at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a step in the right direction but there are still far more questions than answers regarding what’s next for Cleveland.
If Andrew Berry walks into Stefanski’s office on Monday saying he wants to get weird with it and then asks him to block the wind so he can roast a bone, they might be taking Right Down Euclid‘s advice and going the Invincible route. Hopefully, none of the candidates start every day with a hearty breakfast from McDonald’s.
Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at email@example.com. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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