One season ago, the Tennessee Titans had the worst field goal kicking unit in the NFL. Fast forward one year and nothing has changed.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who began the year as the fifth-most accurate in league history and has since dropped to 11th place, has missed eight of his 20 field goal attempts and two of his 27 extra point attempts. That 26 points left off the board.
His 60 percent kicking accuracy (12 of 20) is the worst in the league, ahead of Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott (8 of 12, 66.7 percent) and Detroit’s Matt Prater (14 of 20, 70 percent).
Although he has three game-winning field goals, Gostkowski also missed a potential game-tying 45-yard field goal against Pittsburgh in Week 7 that led to the Titans’ first loss and a 44-yard field goal against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday that would have cut Tennessee’s deficit from 10 to seven points. In fact, he’s 2-for-7 from 40-49 yards this season.
Despite what little successes he’s had, one has to wonder if Gostkowski’s time in Nashville could be running out.
“Steve’s hit some big kicks for us; he’s missed some,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said on Friday. “He’s had lot that he’d like to have back and we're going to have to continue to evaluate that and see what our options are and make a decision.”
Nearly every time Gostkowski has missed a field goal this season, Vrabel has been asked about his 36-year-old kicker’s job security. Each time, he’s responded with a simple, “We have confidence in Stephen.” However, this time is different.
It’s getting to the point where Vrabel and the Titans’ coaching staff can’t cover up some of the missed opportunities to score points. Although, Gostkowski was far from the only special teams blunder in Thursday’s 34-17 loss to the Colts.
Newly-signed punter Trevor Daniel, a Dickson County native and University of Tennessee alum, helped turn the tide for the Colts – not once, but twice.
He shanked a punt near the end of the third quarter that only went 17 yards and set the Colts up right outside the red zone that led to an Indianapolis touchdown. On the next drive, Daniel had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown.
The Titans switched to Daniel after going with former New England Patriot Ryan Allen on short notice in a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears two weeks ago. The move seemed to be a curious one after Allen averaged 50.5 yards per kick on eight punts with a long of 65 yards. The Bears average starting field position was on their own 21-yard line.
“We evaluated [Daniel] last week,” Vrabel said. “We evaluated (the punters) extensively and we made a decision. I think some of the hang time, probably, that's part of the evaluation process when you're talking about kickers, punters. I think we all felt like that the holding wasn't a factor.
“…We're going to have to keep working and be confident in the decisions that we make based on the evaluations in practice and try to get that that area shored up, whether that be with the guys that are protecting, the guys that are covering, the guys that are snapping, or the guys that are kicking.”
Special teams helped the Titans win their first three games of the year, and it can also be argued that they cost the team two of their three losses. Something needs to change quickly because Vrabel can't afford too many more weeks of answering questions about kickers and punters.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_