Anybody that has visited the forums over the past two or so weeks should know that I have been recently voicing a lot of disdain for Steve Hoffman.
Why? Because the man as I said it is a joke. And I’m not backing down from my assessment. They call him a kicking guru, but where are this guru’s disciples? They are missing because there are none. None of his projects in Dallas ever were able to stick in the NFL. Over 16 seasons with that organization, he did manage some production, but nearly the level that the media types are indicating. This picture they are painting that he has taken a majority of no-name, bottom-of-the-well kicking specialists and made them into quality NFL players is a complete farce.
Yes, Zac Derr or Tony Yelk could come out in 2006 and have a great season where they don’t miss a single field goal and nail 3 clutch kicks which include winning the Falcons a division title, conference, and/or Super Bowl title. Will that mean that Hoffman is not a joke, and I should eat my crow? Nope. Because history clearly tells us that even if his “prodigies” have solid rookie years, at some point in the near future they are going to take.
Let’s break down Hoffman’s record thoroughly. Over 16 years as the supposed kicking guru in Dallas, he worked with 10 different kickers. Seven of them had no NFL experience prior to working with Hoffman. Among those seven, only two were good. Those two: Chris Boniol and Richie Cunningham. None of them made in the NFL. Boniol had three good years in Dallas between 1994-96, then left because the Cowboys were being cheap and had 2 bad years in Philly and 1 in Chicago, and was out of the league by 2000. Cunningham had two solid years in Dallas beginning in 1997, then stunk in 1999, and played a total of 7 games in Carolina and Jacksonville over the next 3 years. So what does that say? As long as Hoffman can keep his fingers on these guys, they can do alright? Perhaps, but then when you look at some of his other “prodigies” you start to shake your head.
His latest work came with Billy Cundiff, beginning in 2002. Cundiff was serviceable during his 3.5 year tenure in Dallas, but was never anything special. Nothing that would have made you think that Hoffman had worked wonders with him. Prior to Cundiff, it was Tim Seder and Jon Hilbert. Over two years, they combined to hit only 71.2% of their field goal attempts. Before Boniol, it was Lin Elliott. In a year and a half in Dallas, he connected on only two-thirds of his 39 field goal attempts.
What do these stats tell me? There’s a 71% chance that Derr and Yelk won’t work out. And if they do play well in 2006, at some point in the near future they are going to crash and burn. And that seems a 100% chance of that happening.
I can understand the Falcons desire to take pressure off DeCamillis to work with the kicking game so that he can focus on improving the return and coverage units. But my beef comes with this notion that the Falcons can “go cheap” and since we have Hoffman, everything is going to be alright. No, everything is not going to be alright.
Finding a quality kicker that is going to last in the NFL is difficult, I know this. But finding someone that can be a serviceable guy that can hit 3 out of 4 field goals is not as difficult as it seems. It’s why only 6 teams fielded kickers last year that did not manage to meet that criteria. And only 1 of those teams featured a kicker that hadn’t hit that spot before (so it was arguable that their 2005 season was just a slump year). Can you guess which team he played for? Dallas. Oh, but don’t worry, Hoffman wasn’t with the Cowboys last year, so it’s not his fault right? But I’m sure if he had been doing his job before, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been in such a predicament to have and go out and spend millions of dollars on Mike Vanderjagt this off-season because it’s been 8 years since they had a kicker that would qualify as good. That you can blame on Hoffman.
So I’m definitely looking forward to this season, and see what Hoffman can accomplish. Expectations are low, and that’s a shame considering that this is a team that is coming off a season where they were 1-4 in games decided by 3 points or less. Seems like reliability rather than frugality should be more important coming from the kicking game.