Was the miss in the AFC Championship Game loss enough of a reason for the Baltimore Ravens to cut ties with placekicker Billy Cundiff? One kick should never define a player's value but in this case, it's tough to overlook that 32-yard shank that should have been an easy kick for a guy who made the Pro Bowl just last year.
However, looking at the guy's full body of work for the entire 2011-12 season and you might have a very strong case to move on to another kicker for the coming season. After his Pro Bowl season in 2011, Cundiff was signed to a new contract as his reward for a great season. Unfortunately, he went on to have one of the worst seasons of his career, resulting in one of the worst statistical seasons of any kicker in the entire league this past year.
Billy hit on 26 of 29 field goals (90%) in the 2010 regular season, then bottomed out to 28 of 37 (76%) in 2011. This ranked 29th in the league for starters on the 32 NFL teams. In addition, Cundiff was 1-6 in attempts over 50 yards. Nowadays in the NFL, you have to be able to hit a 50-yard field goal to be considered among the league's best kickers.
Surprisingly, for a guy who led the league in kickoff touchbacks in 2010, you would think he would have the distance in field goals as well. No so, as Cundiff is 5-19 in his seven seasons in the league and 1-9 over his Ravens' career in attempts 50 yards and beyond. Overall, Cundiff is a career 77% field goal kicker, certainly not nearly the expectations the team and its fans had for the guy who many thought was part of one of the top kicking tandems in the NFL last season when combined with punter Sam Koch.
Perhaps the Ravens should have seen this coming before they opened up the Brinks truck for a field goal kicker after only one outstanding season. Looking at his college career at Drake University, Cundiff was a walk-on who said his parents thought he was going to be a basketball player but that God made him a field goal kicker. He basically taught himself through watching videos and ended up setting 15 Drake Bulldog records and five Pioneer League kicking records. However, in his collegiate career, he only made 49 of 79 field goals and missed 15 of his 151 extra-point attempts, an unusual amount for what is almost considered an automatic point.
Many will counter that Cundiff was injured for a portion of the season, which should give him a pass for his inaccuracy problems. Some will say that the team should have called a time-out in the AFC Championship Game when it appears he was late getting out on the field in the confusion of the down and was hurried on the kick.
However, long before the post season, it appeared apparent that Cundiff was not the same player he was the prior season and when he was injured, the Ravens brought in former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham, who hit both of his attempts before Cundiff returned. Had Graham been able to place his kickoffs deeper, there might have been a decent argument to put him on the playoff roster instead of Cundiff and then who knows what the result might have been.
Depending on which Billy Cundiff returns to the Ravens during the off season and into Training Camp, the decision to give him another season in a Ravens uniform should hinge on serious competition to have him prove he deserves to wear the team's colors in 2012. Until then, the jury should remain undecided.