The Kansas City Chiefs’ new rookie kicker: Will he perform?


There has (obviously) been a lot of news surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs the past few days as they trimmed their roster to the final 53, and the major news recently has been the announcement that QB Alex Smith signed a 4-year extension to remain KC’s signal caller until 2019. It is always good to have stability at QB in the NFL, so hopefully Smith has a better career in KC than former Chiefs’ QB’s Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn/Tyler Thigpen/Brodie Croyle, etc. Less importantly, but perhaps equally newsworthy was the word that kicker Ryan Succop was cut, with the Chiefs opting to keep rookie Cairos Santos instead. I thought that was worth a discussion below:

Chiefs fans who followed the preseason games and training camp have been told numerous times that Santos and Succop were nearly identical in their kicking duties this summer. As a team, the Chiefs were 6 for 6 in Field Goals and had 8 touchbacks on 19 kickoffs. Santos produced 3 field goals and 3 touchbacks on 11 kickoffs, and Succop had 3 field goals (including a 54-yarder) and 5 touchbacks (data comes from here).

Succop averaged more yards per kickoff and has had a solid career since being drafted in 2009. He was also set to make $2 million and Santos will make less than half a million. Succop has made 81% of his field goal attempts in his career, which would rank in the NFL’s top 30 all time. Not bad for being Mr. Irrelevant! (Edit:) Succop just signed a 1-year deal with the Tennessee Titans and will have the chance to kick against the Chiefs in the season opener for both teams on September 7.

Since Santos is a rookie, he has no NFL stats, but made 78% of his collegiate field goals while playing 4 years at Tulane, including 2012 where he was a perfect 21 for 21, and was consensus All-American in 2012. In 2013, he made a 56-yarder, but was only 2-6 overall on Field Goals from 50 yards or greater.

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Considering the money saved and the need to sign Alex Smith and Justin Houston to long-term deals, it made sense to cut Succop and go with the rookie Santos. Assuming he performs in the regular season as well as he did at Tulane and this past preseason, this could be a great move that pays off in many ways for the Chiefs.

On the other hand, the Chiefs showed some problems finishing drives this preseason and may end up relying heavily on their new kicker to get them points. Smith will need to earn his raise by finishing offensive drives with touchdowns and WR Dwayne Bowe will need to show that his big extension from 2 years ago was worth it by putting up bigger numbers than in 2013; if not, Santos may have a large burden placed on him and feel a lot of unnecessary pressure to perform at Succop’s level. Succop averaged 29 FG attempts per season, often in the brutal cold and wind swirling through Arrowhead Stadium, whereas Santos played in the near tropical confines of Yulman Stadium in New Orleans. Although the weather can be crazy in New Orleans, it remains to be seen how well Santos can kick in colder climates (it is worth noting that he is from Brazil and grew up playing soccer there before moving to Florida, where he started playing football in high school).

Not to dwell on the ‘what if’s’ and unknowns, I am excited about this move and eagerly await the Chiefs opener one week from today! All that is left to do is sign Justin Houston and then Beat Ryan Succop and the Titans. Go Chiefs!

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