That’s impressive no matter how you try to slant it. When it comes to field goals, no one has ever been better in the history of the NFL than Nate Kaeding.
Kaeding is the best that’s ever been—or is he?
The one knock against Kaeding is a big one—he chokes when the game is on the line in the playoffs. That is also impressive no matter how you try to slant it, but for all the wrong reasons.
Drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2004 with a pick garnered from the Eli Manning-for-Philip Rivers trade, Kaeding’s troubles with clutch kicking started his rookie season. Facing the New York Jets, Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal attempt that could have won the game for the Chargers. Instead, the Jets prevailed with a Doug Brien field goal.
In 2006, having not missed a field goal attempt at Qualcomm stadium for two straight years, Kaeding stepped up against the New England Patriots in the playoffs and pooched a game-tying 54-yard field goal. Sure, the attempt wasn't a chip shot, but the Pats still won the game.
Again, in 2007 and in the playoffs, Kaeding missed a field goal in each of the first two Chargers’ playoff games, one against the Tennessee Titans and one against the Indianapolis Colts. Kaeding’s streak of missed a field goals in consecutive playoff games stood at four until the streak was broken against the Patriots that year—a game the Chargers lost anyway.
You would have thought that things couldn’t have gotten any worse for Kaeding in the playoffs; that the worst was behind him after making that 40-yard field goal against the Pats. But the worst was yet to come.
In the playoff season of 2009, the Chargers hosted the Jets once again. That year Kaeding had hit on 32 of 35 field goals for a league leading 91.4%. But in the divisional game, Kaeding hit rock-bottom as he missed all three of his field goal attempts and the Chargers fell to the Jets 17-14. Kaeding is currently a pathetic three-for-nine at home in the playoffs for his career.
After that game, the Internet was abuzz with Nate Kaeding suicide jokes; perhaps you remember some of them. If not, here's a taste:
“After the Jets game, Kaeding tried to hang himself in shame, but he couldn’t kick out the chair.”
“Kaeding tried to swallow a bottle of sleeping pills after the Jets debacle, (un) fortunately, he choked on the first three.”
Consider all of the woes that Charger fans have to deal with. There are a myriad of troubles festering in the backs of the minds of die-hard Bolts fans like: a lack of Super Bowl rings; questionable coaching; nagging injuries to key players; a suspect running game; an untested linebacking corps; atrocious special teams play and poor turnover ratios.
Add to that a true lack of confidence that the all-time greatest-ever place kicker in the game can’t seem to hit a field goal in the playoffs to save his sporting life and you have what should be one of the ultimate questions facing the Chargers’ hopes for a championship.
But while most of this article has paraded one goof of Kaeding’s after another, that has not been my intention. I am a true believer that we fans have seen the last of Kaeding’s missed crunch-time bungles.
Kaeding has already hit rock-bottom and there is nowhere for him to go but up. The very next time he has a chance to send the Chargers further into the NFL playoffs, he will do so with absolute certainty.
In fact, I will go as far to say that if the Chargers can make it to the Super Bowl this year, it will be a Kaeding kick that brings the Lombardi Trophy back to San Diego and sends Chargers’ fans into rapture. After all he has been through, it must be Kaeding’s destiny to finally become the hero.