Since New York Jets General Manager John Idzik took over, one mantra that everyone around Florham Park has been preaching is “competition.” We have a Quarterback competition, a Left Guard competition, a Tight End competition, a Safety competition, and a Wide Receiver competition. All of these competitions have received their fair share of warranted attention. However, one competition that seems to have been overlooked is the competition at Kicker between the incumbent Nick Folk and former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, the latter best known for the following kick…
Even though John Idzik is credited with bringing the competition mantra to the New York Jets at virtually every position, one position that wasn’t exempt from competition under his predecessor Mike Tannebaum was Kicker. This is a position on a Rex Ryan coached team that is incredibly important because he likes to play for field position and because the Jets defenses have been traditionally stingy in points per game allowed. A kicker that is virtually automatic and can dictate an opponent’s starting field position can be the difference between 2-3 wins. Ever since Nick Folk signed a one year deal after the 2009 season, he has competed with the likes of Nick Novak, Josh Brown, and now Cundiff. Let’s take a closer look at Folk and where he ranks amongst kickers over the last three seasons to see if his position is one that actually warrants competition.
Folk was 30/39 in 2010. His 30 field goals made were tied for 4th most in the league, but his 77% field goals made percentage ranked him tied for 32nd in the league. Folk’s kickoff average was ranked 31st overall, as well, and he ranked 21st overall in touchbacks with 7. There were concerns that he hadn’t fully recovered from the torn hip that had bothered him in Dallas. He did deliver this long lasting memory, right after Mark Sanchez flashed first round Quarterback potential.
Competition: Nick Novak
The Jets, clearly not thrilled with Folk’s kicking percentage from the previous year, brought in former UFL Kicker Nick Novak to compete with the incumbent. The San Diego Chargers actually tried signing Novak to replace the injured Nate Kaeding the previous year, but the UFL refused to accept the required release fee, and Novak remained in the UFL through their season. The competition lasted the entire preseason before Novak was waived and Folk was awarded the job.After winning the job from Novak, Folk’s makes and attempts both dropped, as his 19 field goals made (in 26 attempts) were tied for 28th in the NFL, and his 76% of field goals made was tied for 29th…lowest in the league. His kickoff average was again ranked 31st overall, but he increased his touchbacks to 17.
Competition: Josh Brown
Again wanting to push Folk, the Jets signed former Rams kicker Josh Brown, who had a kickoff average the previous year that ranked 14th in the league. Special Teams coach Mike Westhoff called it the “best kicking competition I’ve ever been a part of.” Folk, again, beat back the competition.
Folk hit on 21 of 27 field goals attempted, and his 78% field goals made percentage placed him 30th in the league.
Nick Folk has hovered around the 77-79% kicking percentage, which is very low in comparison to the rest of the kickers in the league. 18 kickers last year hit on at least 85% of their field goals, including Lawrence Tynes who spends 8 games per year kicking in the same stadium as Folk. The Jets plan is to play good defense, run the ball, throw accurately, and win close games. The team isn’t built to win shootouts. They absolutely need Folk, if he wins the job, to make more than 77% of his kicks. Leaving 9 points on the field every 10 kicks (Folk’s average over the last 3 seasons) for a kicker expected to take 27-30 field goals is unacceptable. It makes sense the Jets would continue to bring in competition for him.