Younger fans of the NFL might not realize the extent to which kicking has improved through the years. Field goals that seem relatively easy today were a long shot in the 1970s.
To illustrate that, I tweeted yesterday comparing the success rate on field goals last season to the success rate in 1974, the first year that the NFL moved the goal posts back from the goal line to the end line. It’s a stunning difference.
In 2016, NFL kickers went a combined 85-for-150 (57 percent) on field goals from 50 yards and beyond. In 1974, NFL kickers went a combined 4-for-30 (13 percent) from 50 yards and beyond.
After tweeting that, I heard from a couple readers who joked that all Roberto Aguayo would have to do to be a good kicker is build a time machine and go back to 1974. But there’s one problem with that: Even by 1974 standards, Aguayo wouldn’t have been a good kicker. Aguayo, the 2016 second-round draft bust cut by the Buccaneers over the weekend, didn’t make any 50-yard field goals during his disastrous year with the Bucs. And even on field goals of 40 to 49 yards, he was worse than the average kicker of 1974: Aguayo went 4-for-10 (40 percent) from 40 to 49 yards, while NFL kickers as a whole went 75-for-169 (44 percent) from 40 to 49 yards.
If you go back half a century, to the 1966 NFL season, you can finally find a time when Aguayo might have been a decent kicker: That year, NFL kickers as a whole went 35-for-102 (34 percent) from 40 to 49 yards, and 1-for-17 (6 percent) on field goals from 50 yards and beyond.
When the Buccaneers traded up in the second round of the draft to select Aguayo, they thought they were getting a future star. They were actually getting a kicker who wouldn’t even have been a star in the distant past.