If Lawrence Tynes Gets the Boot, Who's Got the Leg Up as Next Giants Kicker?

Doug RushSenior Analyst IAugust 20, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 20:  Kicker Lawrence Tynes #9 of the New York Giants kicks a game winning 47-yard field goal to win the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers on January 20, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.   The Giants defeated the Packers 23-20 in overtime to advance to the Superbowl XLII.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In the NFL, one of the most important elements and one of the most forgotten ones is the kicking game.

Over the last couple years, and especially this past week, it's clear a lot of people do not like and do not trust Lawrence Tynes.

Tynes has been the Giants kicker since 2007.

His accuracy is not exactly the greatest among NFL kickers, but not the worst ever seen. In 2007, his field goal average was 85.2 percent, making 23 of 27 field goals.

His kicking accuracy was put to the test on January 20, 2008 in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

It was frigid cold, with the weather at -3 degrees in Wisconsin. Many felt the cold played into the favor of the home team Packers, but it didn't. It was actually a very even contest for the most part.

It was 20-20 with about three seconds left. Tynes was set up to kick a 36-yard field goal to send the Giants to Super Bowl 42. However, a bad snap and a poor kick and miss by Tynes sent the game into overtime.

However, the Giants defense wouldn't budge in the cold, and they gave Tynes another chance in the cold, a 43-yard attempt. Tynes missed this kick as well, again failing to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.

Because Corey Webster was able to pick off Brett Favre, it gave Tynes a third opportunity to kick a game winner, from 46 yards away. This time, Tynes kick was right down the middle and the Giants won 23-20 in overtime to go to Super Bowl 42.

If Tynes kicks were the downfall of the Giants season, he would not still be here today, but he made the game winner that saved his job.

Tynes wasn't much of a factor in Super Bowl 42; he kicked the opening field goal to give the Giants a 3-0 lead and kicked the two extra points on the Giants touchdowns, so he wasn't in any critical situations.

But in 2008, Tynes was out for nearly all of 2008 with a leg injury, so the Giants had to go with 44-year-old John Carney, a kicker in the NFL since 1988 and has played for seven different teams.

The move ended up working for the 2008 season, because Carney was nearly perfect with his field goals, 35-for-38 and 92.1 percent. But most of Carney's field goals were from either 20-29 yards or 30-39 yards out. Carney was a short distance kicker because of his age.

Tynes came back for the final game of 2008 against the Vikings, but he was going to be kicking off and not doing field goals in the playoffs.

In the second round game on January 11 against the Eagles, Carney missed two critical field goals for the Giants; a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter. Even with the wind conditions in Giants Stadium, it was clear that Carney couldn't make kicks over 40-plus yards.

Carney's contract has since expired.

So for right now, Tynes is the only kicker on the Giants roster. But what if Tynes gets hurt, or what if he starts missing important kicks in games? Kickers can easily be cut if they start missing consistently, and Tynes is a career 80 percent kicker, so if he isn't reliable, do the Giants have a backup plan to him?

I checked the 2009 free agent list for kickers and it is slim pickings for kickers.

Carney isn't even on the list because he re-signed with the Saints. He will be 45 this season, however, I don't think the Giants would have wanted to try him again because of the long-distance kicking issue.

There is a kicker on the list who used to be good, but injury problems hampered his career—Martin Gramatica.

Once nicknamed "Automatica Gramatica" from his clutch kicking days with the Buccaneers, Gramatica was able to drill 50-plus yard field goals. But leg injuries started to bother Gramatica and Tampa moved on from him.

He missed the entire 2006 season with injuries. He was picked up by the Saints in 2007 and 2008 as their second kicker. In 2008, Gramatica was 6-for-10 at 60 percent, so Gramatica's clutch-kicking days may be over.

There is one final name on the list. He's 41 and has been in the NFL a long time, but he may be the only choice who is deemed reliable—Matt Stover.

Stover was originally drafted by the Giants in 1990, but was cut and started out with the Browns in 1991. When the team moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, he stayed on for the last 12 years and has been the only kicker the team has ever known. Until now. Stover is a free agent who has yet to sign with a team.

But if the Giants need another leg if Tynes can not do the job, Stover might end up being the best option out there. The Giants might want to pick up Stover quickly, because once teams start seeing their kickers in action, and if any of the 31 others falter, Stover's phone might be ringing fast.

For Tynes' sake and job, you hope he works out whatever leg issue he had in 2008 and comes out strong for the Giants. He missed a field goal in the Giants first preseason game Monday night against the Panthers, and his kickoffs were not exactly strong, which is what started the recent anti-Tynes comments from Giants fans.

One thing is for certain in the NFL, a kicker's job is never safe unless he is consistently good. If he is consistently bad, he will be quickly out of a job. 

In case Tynes is bad, Jerry Reese, have Stover's phone number handy.