In the heat of the moment the comment seemed utterly reasonable. If in the cool light of hindsight it reads a little hyperbolic, that is because Gano coolly drilled the kick down the middle, sealing the Redskins’ dramatic come-from-behind victory over a team that had dominated them throughout most of the game.
Had Gano missed, however, the title might well have served as a roster move announcement.
In the NFL placekickers are generally noticed—only truly register with fans—when they miss. Professional field goal kickers are “supposed” to make routine 33-yarders to win overtime games. And they do, for the most part.
When they succeed fans go home happy and spend the afterglow hours talking about everything but the kicker. They talk about the quarterback that drove the team down the field to set the kick up; they talk about a defense that dug in its heels and limited one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses to three second-half points.
If the kicker misses, it’s a very different story.
Gano had already missed once earlier in the game after all. And he had missed a potential overtime game-winner against Houston in a game the Redskins would go on to lose. If he had missed the overtime kick against the Packers, it would have come as only a mild surprise to Redskins fans if Gano been released the following day.
And no wonder.
The term “revolving door” barely seems adequate to describe the position of placekicker on this team in recent years. When one hears the words “Washington Redskins kicker,” the first name that comes to mind might still be Mark Moseley.
Moseley owned the position for 13 years between 1974-86. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and, in 1982, became the only kicker in NFL history to win the league MVP award while helping the Redskins win their first Super Bowl. He was a fixture.
Though no one knew it at the time, the year after Moseley retired foreshadowed a Redskins future few could have envisioned. Five placekickers attempted field goals for the Redskins in 1987. If this were Jeopardy, how many of these names would you come up with?
Steve Cox, Ali Haji-Sheikh, Obed Ariri, Brendan Toibin and Jess Atkinson.
The following offseason the Redskins were criticized by many for using a second round draft pick on the University of Minnesota’s Chip Lohmiller. Their faith was rewarded, however, as Lohmiller locked down the position for seven years (1988-94). Along the way he turned in a Pro Bowl performance that helped the Redskins in their final Super Bowl campaign in 1991.
Discounting the transition year between Moseley and Lohmiller, the Redskins had two placekickers in 20 years. In the NFL that is nothing short of remarkable.
The years since have also been remarkable, but not for the same reason.
In the 15 seasons since Lohmiller was released after the 1994 season, no less than 16 placekickers have attempted field goals for the Washington Redskins. Some of the names on that list will not even register with most Redskins fans. Others may cause a brief flicker of recognition, raised eyebrow or eye-roll.
None will stand in lore or conjure Redskins glory.
David Akers, Scott Blanton, Cary Blanchard, Scott Bentley, Kris Heppner, Michael Husted, Eddie Murray, Brett Conway, Jose Cortez, James Tuthill, Jeff Chandler, Ola Kimrim, Nick Novak, John Hall, Shaun Suisham and Graham Gano.
Yes, sometimes one has provided a shining moment that may almost have had fans believing the Redskins had found The Guy. The memory of Nick Novak sprinting around FedEx Field after breaking Dallas’ heart with an improbable game-winner in 2006 with no time left on the clock after the late Sean Taylor’s return of a blocked Cowboys field goal attempt, is still fresh.
But like so many others before and since, Novak’s name has just as quickly faded back into obscurity.
So as Gano lined up in overtime against Green Bay, Redskins fan could hardly be blamed for chewing lips, watching between fingers, suffering knots in their guts and assuming the worst.
Asked about his mindset approaching the final game-winning attempt after missing a kick earlier in the game, Gano said, "On that last one, it helps if I make that kick—everybody forgets the big miss. I think right after I miss a field goal, sure, I'm mad. I think everybody's mad. I think it's good I can just forget about that kick and focus on that next one."
That’s the thing. Like so many others that have come before, Mr. Gano assumes there will be a next one.
If he is The One, or simply The Latest, only time will tell.
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