Instead of Getting Better, NFL Kickers Are Getting Worse

This season's field-goal success rate of 80.5 percent is at its lowest level since 2003

Instead of Getting Better, NFL Kickers Are Getting Worse
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri misses wide right on a field goal. (Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty)
By Evan Bleier / November 14, 2019 2:15 pm

This season, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, Adam Vinatieri, has missed a number of kicks, which may have cost the Indianapolis Colts a minimum of three wins and a decent shot at a playoff spot.

Things have been rough for the 46-year-old, but the four-time Super Bowl winner is not alone in his struggles. 

According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, this year’s field-goal success rate is 80.5 percent, the lowest mark for that statistic since 2003.

To reach that level, the NFL’s field-goal success rate declined by 4.2 percentage points from last season, the greatest year-to-year drop in efficiency since 1975 to 1976.

Things are so bad that there are 12 teams with field-goal success rates at or below 75 percent, which hasn’t happened since 2003.

And it’s not just field goals. Kickers are also struggling so mightily on extra point (93.4 percent success rate on PATs) that few point-after attempts are being converted than in 2015, the first year the ball’s placement was moved back to the 15-yard line.

Though one possible reason so many field goals are being missed is that teams are attempting them more often and from farther away than ever before, it’s also possible that the current crop of kickers in the league are past their prime.

“Perhaps teams should kick fewer field goals, or better yet, find new kickers instead of sticking with ones whose best days are probably behind them,” according to FiveThirtyEight.

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