Decision to retain kicker could haunt the Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are taking a considerable gamble by choosing to move forward with Zane Gonzalez as their placekicker
With just five games remaining in a promising season, the Arizona Cardinals are choosing to take a huge gamble. The team’s decision to stick with Zane Gonzalez, the Cards erratic placekicker, is a bit perplexing. Fans can only hope that the club’s loyalty to the beleaguered player doesn’t come back to haunt them in the coming weeks.
Last Sunday, against the New England Patriots, Gonzalez was handed a golden opportunity to be the hero for the Cardinals. With 4:27 left in the contest, Arizona cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted an errant pass thrown by Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. The score was tied 17-17 at the time, and it looked as if head coach Kliff Kingsbury‘s squad could be escaping Massachusetts with a victory.
Unfortunately, the sequence that followed did not work out as the Cards had hoped. There was 1:47 left to play when Gonzalez’s 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. New England kicker Nick Folk capitalized on the shank a short time later, and the Redbirds were sent home with a heartbreaking 20-17 defeat.
It’s not the first time this year that Gonzalez had failed to come through for his teammates. During a week seven matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the 25-year old missed a 41-yard field goal with 2:47 left in the overtime period. Gonzalez did eventually bang home a game-winning 48-yarder a couple of minutes later, however, after rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons bailed him out with a clutch interception.
Two weeks later, Gonzalez choked again. During a week nine clash with the Miami Dolphins, the former Arizona State University product’s 49-yard field goal try with 1:58 to go fell short of the goalposts. A successful kick by Gonzalez would’ve tied the contest, but the Cardinals ended up falling to Miami by a score of 34-31 instead.
If Arizona did decide to send Gonzalez packing, there’s someone currently on the organization’s practice squad who could take the reigns. Mike Nugent, a 38-year old who signed with the Cards back in September, is a veteran of 15 NFL campaigns. In 168 career appearances, Nugent has booted 258 field goals and 378 PATs during stints with eight professional franchises (including a short stay with the Cardinals in 2009).
There are indications that Gonzalez may be trying Arizona’s patience. “Bottom line is he gets paid to kick the football and he’s got to make that kick,” general manager Steve Keim said of the blown field goal versus New England. Sounds like Gonzalez could finally be running out of chances with a Cards team that now has very little room for error.