As the old saying goes, "You never know what you have until it's gone." From 1980 until 2012 the Detroit Lions had only known two kickers, Eddie Murray and Jason Hanson. It's now unclear whether or not the Lions will have two kickers in this season alone after Nate Freese's rough debut in 2014.
It's easy to take a solid kicking game for granted until you no longer have one. Murray hit over 75 percent of his field goals while with the Lions. Hanson had a career field goal percentage of 82.4, and he only had six years under 80 percent. So far through two games Freese has hit on just two of his first five field-goal tries. None of his two made field goals have come from further than 28 yards. Needless to say, it's been a shaky start for the rookie.
In previous years I might have been willing to give the young guy a chance. I would have empathized a little more with him. I would have understood that life as an NFL rookie, regardless of position, is hard. But not this year.
The Lions don't have a chance to let Freese get acclimated to the NFL game. From the minute Jim Caldwell came in as the head coach he preached about the Lions' ability to win championships now. If the Lions truly are in win-now mode, it's better late than never if they want to correct their mistake at the kicker position. While many swooned for Giorgio Tavecchio this year, much like "Kickalicious" before him, Freese won the support of the coaching staff and eventually the kicking job. I was fine with Freese winning the job because, probably like most fans, I couldn't care less about the kicker -- unless he starts costing the Lions wins.
I fully believe that's where Freese is heading. Regardless of what he might say, I think he's never been the most confident of kickers, and the results so far back me up.
The Lions brought in three new kickers to try out on Tuesday, and at this point it's unclear what they will do next at the position. But this much is clear: they need to get it figured out quickly. The Lions had nine games last year decided by a touchdown or less, and they lost six of them. When the margin for error is so slight, the Lions simply can't afford to get this wrong. They can't afford to leave points off the scoreboard on makeable kicks.
I hope the Lions organization doesn't wait for a missed field goal to cost them a game, but it also wouldn't shock me if they were stubborn enough to do it.