Key factors in a good kicker

Booting the ball well in foul weather overblown

The search is on for a new kicker in Green Bay now that Ryan Longwell has departed to Minnesota. Hopefully, the Packers will not pursue a kicker for the reason that he is good in "bad or cold weather."

The top two kickers available on the free agent market, Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt, could arguably fall under the category of bad-weather kickers, a moniker that gets thrown around often in chilly Green Bay. In reality, though, kicking in the cold weather is an overblown subject.

What really gets it done in the inclement conditions is a good snap, a good hold, and a good kicker. Longwell and his unit perfected such a system for much of the past nine years and had great success. He is the best kicker in team history and the franchise's all-time leading scorer with 1,054 points.

The price to keep Longwell, however, was apparently too much for the Packers. That, orr Longwell simply wanted to kick in the comfort of a dome for the majority of a season.

With Vinatieri likely demanding as much or more than Longwell, it seems unlikely general manager Ted Thompson would dish out the big bucks for a kicker. The Packers have money to spend, though, which makes Vinatieri an intriguing option. Vinatieri is expected to meet with the Packers on Friday.

It was just two years ago that the Packers and then head coach/general manager Mike Sherman used a third-round pick on punter B.J. Sander. As bad as it was that Sherman used a third-rounder on a kicking specialist, it was even worse when he justified the pick by saying the left-footer "could be dangerous at Lambeau Field."

The Packers' staff was convinced that Sander could be great in Green Bay when they saw him punt in poor weather conditions at Ohio State pro day prior to the draft. Instead, they should have been looking for a great punter, period. After all, most of the games on an NFL regular season schedule are played under fair conditions. Two years after that pro day, Sander finds himself in a fight to keep his job.

Vinatieri's success kicking in the snow and in frigid temperatures has been well-documented, but his ability to come through in the clutch is why he is such a commodity. He has won big playoff games and Super Bowls because of his confidence, not because he is a "bad weather" kicker.

Likewise, Vanderjagt may appear to be a good fit for the Packers because of his background in the Canadian Football League. If Thompson decides to sign him, he had better not consider that distant part of Vanderjagt's career a factor. Instead, he should be trying to figure out whether that kick he missed horribly at the RCA Dome against the Steelers in the playoffs was a fluke or a sign that he is not big-game kicker.

In reality, the frozen tundra label bestowed on Lambeau Field only affects a couple of games a year. It has become less and less of a factor. Maybe it is the global warming effect.

Over Longwell's nine years in Green Bay, 26 of the 154 games he played were in what could be considered poor weather conditions (where the game-time temperature was below 32 degrees or the wind was a significant factor). At just under an average of three games per year, the law of averages says that poor conditions have little to do with how well a kicker performs each season. It is better to have a kicker perform well in 13 games a year than just three.

So, indeed, such foul weather is just "coachspeak" or "playerspeak" when it comes to booting a football.

Certainly the climate in particular parts of the country can have an effect on how far the ball goes, but Longwell showed that technique and repetition are the keys to success under any conditions. With different holders and slightly different timing, he struggled at different points during last season. His lack of success had nothing to do with the weather, even on a frozen December night against the Lions, but it had much more to do with the doubt in his head.

If Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy, and special teams coach Mike Stock take a no-nonsense approach, they will not be speaking of any weather issues in the process of finding a new kicker. They will just get a guy for what he is – a good kicker.

Matt Tevsh

Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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