In the NFL, kickers are put under a gigantic microscope; the ball coming off their foot can either win or lose a team a football game. It does not matter how good or bad a team played that day or how they got themselves to that point; but if a kicker has a chance to make a game winning field goal, he will see one of two scenarios play out: The kicker will either be praised as a hero if he makes it or vilified and fully blamed for the loss by the media and fans for the loss. Kickers are under incredible pressure and finding an elite kicker in today’s NFL can be the difference between winning and losing several games in a season where every win matters.
During the 2019 season, the NFL saw its worst season in over a decade in terms of field goals made percentage, as field goals league wide were made at 81.6%, the lowest NFL FGM% since 2009. An outstanding 14 teams in the 2019 season saw a team FGM% of under 80% and there seems to be a correlation, as 10 of those 14 teams missed the playoffs. Long range field goals were an issue in the NFL last season as well, as only eight teams had a made field goal of over 55 yards. Just barely over 50% of field goals from 50+ yards out were made, as the league went 84/145 (58%) on those attempts which was the second lowest percentage from 50+ yards out in the NFL since 2012.
It has been clear that elite kickers in the NFL are becoming few and far between and it is getting harder as years go by to acquire one. But what if I told you that there was the perfect candidate for an NFL team needing to stabilize the kicker position and find a kicker who can be consistent? That would be Mr. Taylor Russolino, formerly of NCAA Division III, the Continental Indoor Football League, China Arena Football League, Arena Football League, Canadian Football League, and most recently the Xtreme Football League; better known as the XFL where Russolino was the kicker for the St. Louis BattleHawks. In five games with the BattleHawks, Russolino went 9/10 on field goals (90% FGM) and had a long of 58 yards, the longest field goal in XFL history. Russolino was nearly perfect on 2020 XFL season, and the only field goal he missed came against the DC Defenders where the snap was high and punter/holder Marquette King could barely get the ball placed on the ground in time for Russolino to kick; not exactly his fault.
Russolino was as consistent as they come for the BattleHawks with a 90% conversion rate and long of 58 yards. Now get this: there was no individual kicker in the NFL last season who had both made at least 90% of their field goals and had a long of at least 58 yards. Individually, there were only four kickers who made a field goal from at least 58 and only five kickers who made at least 90% of their field goal attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts; not a single kicker landed in both categories.
Despite the kicking consistency, no NFL team has come calling for Russolino’s services yet. It is truly unfathomable as the art of field goal kicking is similar if not the same in every league of football. The only difference is of course the stakes are raised for kickers at the NFL level. It is understandable if a team does not want to sign a player who has never played a down in the NFL to be their starting kicker, but all Russolino needs is a chance. Give him an invite to training camp and let him go through a full preseason to compete for the kicker job. Like aforementioned, a consistent kicker can elevate an offense and team as a whole as they can help them win crucial games down the stretch. A good kicker is an undervalued asset to a football team and Russolino has at least proved that he has earned the right to be given a chance in the NFL.