Originally written on One Jet At A Time  |  Last updated 4/16/14
With the NFL draft less than a month away, the Jets have plenty of needs to fill on the team. One position most Jets fans and management aren’t worried about is kicker. That wasn’t always the case though. It is very rare for a team to have a franchise place kicker like the Raiders and Sebastian Janikowski or the Lions and Jason Hanson before he retired. Here is a look back at the last decade of kickers to wear green and white. Feature Image: AP Photo/Mel Evans Doug Brien (2003-2004) Doug Brien after missed FG in Pittsburgh; Photo Credit: NY Times How he got here: Brien had been with 5 different teams in his first 10 years in the league, including the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers. He came to the Jets in 2003 as a free agent. Best moment: It’s easy to forget, in the Jets’ roller coaster 2004 playoff run, that Doug Brien won the wild card game against the Chargers. He nailed a 28-yard field goal in overtime to win 20-17 and bailed out Eric Barton for his personal foul penalty that caused San Diego to tie late in the 4th quarter. His next game leads me into… Worst moment: Doug Brien became infamous among Jets fans after the divisional round game against the Steelers. With 2:02 left in regulation, he missed field goal attempts of 47 and 43 yards. The coaching staff didn’t help by electing to kneel down with 6 seconds left instead of running the ball to gain more yards. That made the field goal 1 yard longer. The Steelers went on to win the game in overtime thanks to Jeff Reed’s FG 20-17. Legacy: In 2005, he signed with the Bears and made only 1 out of 4 field goals before being cut. That was the end of his career. Brien was actually known throughout his career for his accuracy, ranking 10th in NFL history at the time of Ian O’Connor’s Jets-Steelers game recap (http://usat.ly/1hIKofd) But he’ll always be remembered for missing those 2 field goals in Pittsburgh. Heinz Field is arguably one of the most difficult stadiums to kick in due to the wind blowing into the Ohio River. But as an NFL kicker, you’re expected to make every field goal you line up for, regardless of weather conditions or distance. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league. While Brien’s missed FGs didn’t cost the Jets the Super Bowl like Scott Norwood did for the Bills, it ended a promising Jets playoff run. Mike Nugent (2005-2008) Mike Nugent kicking FG; Photo Credit: tampabay.com How he got here: After the release of Doug Brien, the Jets were looking for another kicker to erase the memories of 2004’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Mike Nugent was an All-American and won the Lou Groza award for nation’s best kicker with Ohio State. It made sense for the Jets to pick him up late in the draft. That Pittsburgh loss must have haunted Head Coach Herm Edwards and GM Terry Bradway. They made the questionable decision to draft Nugent in the second round. Best moment: Christmas Eve 2006 — The Jets were in a pivotal Monday night AFC East matchup in Miami against the Dolphins. New York had an 8-6 record and needed to win their last 2 games to advance to the playoffs as a wild card. The game was tied at 10 all late in the 4th quarter. Chad Pennington hooked up with Leon Washington for a 64-yard catch. Mike Nugent made the 30-yard field goal to win the game 13-10 and keep the Jets in playoff contention (They would end up with the 5th seed and lose to New England in the wild card round). Worst moment: 2008 Week 1 – Mike Nugent strained his quad on a kickoff against the Dolphins. He later tried a 32-yard field goal and missed. He sat out the rest of the game. Jay Feely took his job the next week. Nugent sat on the bench for the rest of the season, as Feely never relinquished the role of starting kicker. Nugent’s contract expired after the 2008 season and he decided to not resign with the Jets. Legacy: Mike Nugent wasn’t awful in his stint with the Jets. He made 75/92 field goals (82%) He just wasn’t very consistent. He missed 6 field goals in 2005 and 7 in 2007. He became a victim of lofty expectations. It wasn’t his fault he was drafted in the 2nd round because of a knee-jerk reaction to the year before. But when you’re drafted that high, you’ve better be automatic. Nugent wasn’t. He seems to be doing well for the Bengals, as 2014 will be his fifth season in Cincinnati. Jay Feely (2008-2009) Jay Feely, after making a FG in week 16 vs. Colts during the 2009 season; Photo Credit: NY Post How he got here: He lost his job to Dan Carpenter in Miami and cut by the Chiefs during the 2008 offseason. The Jets’ starting kicker, Mike Nugent, left the first game with an injury and the team signed Feely the next week. Felly would hold on to the job for the next 2 seasons. Best moment: The Week 11 matchup in New England against the Patriots on Thursday Night Football — This was a significant matchup that would decide who would take first place in the AFC East late in the season. One of the best Jets games in recent memory that went back-and-forth. The contest ended in overtime with a Jay Feely 34-yard field goal. Jets won 34-31. They were 7-3 at that point and were poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. They later collapsed and finished 9-7, out of the playoffs. Worst moment: This is often overlooked, but Feely missed a couple of key field goals from 44 and 52 yards early in the 2009 AFC Championship game in Indianapolis against the Colts. The Colts ended up winning 30-17. But if those 2 field goal attempts had worked out for the Jets, they might have had a good chance to tie the game only being down 7 points instead of 13. Legacy: Jay Feely would break Pat Leahy’s Jets franchise record of 23 straight field goals made when he booted #24 against the Buffalo Bills in week 6 of 2009. Feely brought some consistency with the Jets as he made 54/64 field goals in his stint (84%). The team wanted to bring him back, but both sides couldn’t agree to a new deal in 2010. Feely was being paid $1.5 million in his last year with the Jets. The Jets ended up taking a chance on Nick Folk as a cheaper alternative. Nick Folk (2010-present) Nick Folk hitting game-winner vs. Falcons in 2013; Photo Credit: Newsday How he got here: Nick Folk was coming off a terrible season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 where he made only 18/28 field goals (64%) and was cut before the season was over. The Jets’ negotiations with Feely weren’t working out well, so they signed Nick Folk as a cheaper option. Best moment: 2010 Wild Card playoffs against the Colts in Indianapolis – The Jets looked to avenge their loss to the Colts from the year before. New York was leading 14-13 in the 4th quarter when Adam Vinatieri kicked a field goal and gave the Colts a two-point lead late in the 4th. The Jets managed to get deep into Colts territory deep enough for Folk to win the game as time expired, 17-16. Worst moment: 2011 Week 11 against Denver – This game was one of many Tim Tebow miracle wins that year. Nick Folk made only 2/4 field goals in the 17-13 loss against the Broncos in that Thursday night game. It wasn’t all Folk’s fault because the entire Jets offense was anemic due to Sanchez’s inconsistent play and injuries to LT and Greene. They still would’ve walked out with the W if it weren’t for the missed FGs though. That loss dropped the Jets to 5-5 and was a microcosm of their 8-8 season. Legacy: While Folk’s accuracy wasn’t very good in his first 3 Jets seasons, 70/91 field goals (77%), he somehow managed to impress the Jets coaches and management enough to keep his job during training camp battles. According to a Manish Mehta article in the NY Daily News, last year, Folk has beat out six other kickers in his Jets tenure: Nick Novak, Josh Brown, Derek Dimke, Brett Maher, Billy Cundiff, and Dan Carpenter. Brown and Cundiff had impressive resumes with other teams in the league. Folk was still able to come out on top. That says a lot about his resilience. Nick Folk rewarded the Jets with the best statistical season of his career in 2013. He came through on 33/36 field goals. He made a legitimate case for team MVP during the first half of the season with game-winning field goals in crucial games against the Buccaneers in Week 1, Falcons on Monday night in Week 5 and Patriots in Week 7. The Jets did right by Folk this offseason, after initially placing the franchise tag on him, by giving him a multi-year extension. Rich Cimini reported Folk signed a four-year; $12 million deal with $2.1 million guaranteed, last month. Will the Jets bring in competition again for the fourth straight offseason? We’ll see later. But if Folk continues to perform like he did last year, I fully expect him to ride out his contract.
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