Two weeks ago, Chiefs coach Andy Reid sent kicker Ryan Succop out for an NFL-record tying 63-yard field goal just before halftime in a Sunday night game against the Broncos.
And then Reid saw Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deep in the end zone, with a plan of catching a short kick and returning it against a field-goal team largely consisting of large men who would have a hard time catching Rodgers-Cromartie.
Former Dolphins coach Nick Saban apparently wasn’t watching. And Saban apparently wasn’t paying attention to several recent instances of long missed field goals being returned for touchdowns when he decided to try a 57-yarder with one second left in the 2013 Iron Bowl.
In 2006, Saban’s final year in the NFL, Bears receiver Devin Hester returned a missed field goal against the Giants for a 100-plus yard score. The next year, former Chargers defensive back Antonio Cromartie did the same thing against the Vikings.
In 2009, former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister did it against the Broncos on a Monday night.
Even the CFL has gotten in on the act, with a 125-yard touchdown return by Tim Brown of the B.C. Lions earlier this year.
So while Saban can point to all sorts of specific things that went wrong, from the kicker not hitting a 57-yard try hard enough to the players not doing a good enough job tracking down Auburn’s Chris Davis as he ran the ball back, the reality is that every coach who tries a long field goal runs the risk of a long return, unless and until the field-goal team includes players who are fast enough to catch the most elusive guy on the other team.
The smarter approach would have been for a coach who is a great college coach because he’s the best recruiter in the country to rely on his superior recruits to prevail in overtime.