Back in December when he put together his four-part “Fixing the Giants” series, former Big Blue View contributor “Invictus” recommended that the New York Giants sign Los Angeles Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein as a free agent.
So, since we have been profiling potential Giants’ free-agent targets let’s have a look at Zuerlein and see if that is a worthwhile idea.
A kicker? A kicker?!? You're god darn right, a kicker. It's been apparent how constrictive the play calling has been because of Robbie Gould's weak leg. It's an adventure for every point after attempt, let alone a field goal. Add to that he doesn't have the power to be reliable over 50 yards and you've got a recipe for trouble. It's also a huge disadvantage for the Giants to continuously be short on kickoffs. In a league of inches - and indeed that was in full effect in the Cowboys game where a field goal attempt came half a yard short by Dan Bailey in a 10-7 game - every one counts. Offense, defense, and special teams. Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein has that moniker for a reason.
I think our good friend “Invictus” had a valid point, although he was a bit harsh on Gould. In his first year with the Giants after 11 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Gould went 10-for-10 in field goals, though he did miss three extra points in 23 attempts.
Gould is an unrestricted free agent, so it is fair to discuss whether the Giants should bring him back or try to replace him with a younger kicker.
Gould’s longest field goal in 2016 was 47 yards. Does that mean the 35-year-old can’t make kicks from 50 yards or beyond? I don’t think so. It simply means that in 10 games the Giants never asked him to try. In 2015, Gould was 7-of-9 from beyond 50 yards with a long of 55. He didn’t lose 8-10 yards of leg strength in a year. For his career, Gould is 23-of-31 (74.1 percent) from 50 yards or more.
In a five-year career, Zuerlein, 29, is 18-of-35 (51.4 percent) from beyond 50 yards. He was 2-of-4 in 2016 and just 3-of-9 (33 percent), albeit with a long of 61 yards, in 2015. So, yeah, he can hit it from a little farther than Gould, whose career long of 58 yards came in 2013, but Gould has been more reliable when asked to kick from distance.
Overall, Gould has made 85.9 percent of his kicks while Zuerlein has made 79.4 percent.
Undeniably, the younger Zuerlein is better on kickoffs. In 2016, Gould had 19 touchbacks in 41 kickoffs (46.3 percent) and gave up an average of 24.5 yards per return. Zuerlein had 36 touchbacks in 58 kickoffs (62 percent) and allowed just 19.5 yards per return. And yes, “Invictus” is right that those yards matter.
So, would you prefer the somewhat more reliable Gould even though his kickoffs leave something to be desired, or the stronger-legged Zuerlein, even if he has been slightly less accurate during his career?