Today on Hinterland Who's Who, we take a look at the North American football placekicker, a universally reviled species with a tragically short lifespan.
Placekickers can be easily spotted on the sidelines, since they tend to keep their distance from the other members of the herd (or "team"), most of whom don't consider them real football players. They also usually wear mismatched shoes, helmets with a one-bar facemask and a pair of goat horns after every narrow defeat.
The latest kicker to be fitted for horns is University of Michigan senior Jason Gingell, who last Saturday had two kicks blocked in the final 1:47 of a 34-32 loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Despite the ineptitude of Michigan's defence, offence and coaching staff, if Gingell had been able to coax just one of those kicks over the crossbar, the Wolverines would have been spared the shame of becoming the first ranked team in history to lose to a Div. 1-AA school.
But that's the life of a placekicker. As Gingell and the 10 men on this list can attest, you're only as good as your last kick.
10. Paul McCallum
How can a guy who holds the record for the longest field goal in CFL history (62 yards) miss a measly 18-yarder to lose a playoff game? That's the question thousands of Saskatchewan Roughrider fans were asking in 2004 after McCallum's overtime blunder against the B.C. Lions. They reacted as any of us would — by hucking eggs at his house, dumping manure on his neighbour's lawn and making death threats on his family.
9. Florida State
In a 1991 clash between top-ranked FSU and No. 2 Miami, Seminoles kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with 29 seconds left to play, sealing a 17-16 Hurricanes victory and helping to propel Miami to the national title. Then, one year later, new 'Noles kicker Dan Mowrey missed a 39-yarder on the final play of a 27-24 loss to the hated 'Canes. The games became known as Wide Right I and Wide Right II.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Needing a victory in their penultimate game against the Denver Broncos to secure a playoff berth last season, the Cincinnati Bengals were about to send the contest into overtime after scoring a touchdown with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But an errant snap on the ensuing PAT attempt cost the Bungles a 24-23 defeat and ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs when they lost again the next week.
7. Charlie Brown
The kid with the perfectly round head gets a bad rap for his 0-for-312 career record, but in truth, a lot of the blame must be placed on his holder. Lucy Van Pelt — brother of Linus and cousin of former Bills QB Alex — was indicted in 1973 on charges of game-fixing and dispensing psychiatric advice without a licence.
6. Tony Romo
With 1:19 left in their wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks last season, Dallas Cowboys kicker Martin Gramatica was poised to kick his team to victory as he lined up a short, chip-short field goal. But like Charlie Brown, Gramatica was denied a shot at glory as his holder, Cowboys QB Tony Romo, let the ball slip through his fingers. Romo picked up the ball and ran for the end zone, but came up a yard short, sealing Seatte's 21-20 victory.
5. Mike Vanderjagt
Once the most accurate placekicker in NFL history, this Canadian's career with the Indianapolis Colts came to a sudden end in 2006 when he missed a last-minute 46-yarder, sealing a 21-18 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Actually, the most errant swing of Vanderjagt's right foot came a few years earlier when he planted it squarely into his mouth by criticizing the leadership abilities of Colts QB Peyton Manning and coach Tony Dungy, prompting Manning to later describe him as "our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth."
4. Eddie Murray
While we're picking on Canadians, how about Haligonian Eddie Murray, who was one of the NFL's top kickers in the '80s and '90s? With five seconds left in a 1983 NFC divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, Murray missed a 43-yarder to allow the Niners to escape with a 24-23 win.
3. Scott Norwood
The Buffalo Bills trailed the New York Giants 20-19 with eight seconds left in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla., when Bills kicker Scott Norwood lined up a 47-yard field goal attempt to win the game. But Norwood's kick sailed wide right, forever adding his name — probably unfairly — to the list of athletes who blew it when the chips were down.
2. Gary Anderson
In 1998-99, Anderson became the first kicker in NFL history go an entire season without a miss, going 35-for-35. Then, with his Minnesota Vikings leading 27-20 with 2:07 left in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Anderson did the unthinkable, hooking a 38-yarder just outside the left upright. The Falcons went on to score a tying touchdown, then won the game in overtime on a 38-yarder of their own.
1. Garo Yepremian
While not as costly as the misses by Anderson or Norwood, Yepremian's blunder in Super Bowl VII has become legendary. Leading the Washington Redskins 14-0 late in the game, Yepremian's short field goal attempt was blocked, causing the ball to bounce back into his hands. Inexplicably, the kicker attempted a pass, which slipped out of his hand and popped into the air. He then feebly batted it into the hands of a Redskins player, who returned it for a touchdown. The Dolphins hung on for the victory, preserving their perfect 1972 season, but Yepremian's gaffe helped forever brand kickers as objects of ridicule among "real" players.
Disagree with our picks? Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.