Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

The Curse of Jason Hanson?

Most, if not all Detroit Lions fans are familiar with “The Curse of Bobby Layne.” For those unaware, Layne was the quarterback of the Lions for six years and won three NFL Championships with the team, until he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958. As legend has it, Layne said that the Lions would “not win for 50 years,” although this is now believed to just be a myth. While Layne’s comment was particularly vague, and quite possibly entirely fictitious, the Lions have been uncannily bad since the “curse” was placed on the franchise. And while the curse may have been “lifted” several years ago, as those fifty years have elapsed, the Lions may be plagued with an entirely new curse.

Through six games this season, the Lions have attempted 15 field goals and converted just five of them. Three kickers, rookie Nate Freese, former Eagle Alex Henery, and current kicker Matt Prater, have combined for those paltry five field goals. A coincidence of bad personnel decisions? Most likely. But the far more interesting theory is that the Lions are now saddled with “The Curse of Jason Hanson.”

At the conclusion of the 2012 NFL regular season, then Lions kicker Jason Hanson was coming off one of his best seasons statistically; not bad for a 42-year-old. He had converted 32 of his 36 attempted field goals, for an 88.9% clip, all three stats ranking in the top four of his career. Hanson also set a career record with 134 points that season, and was still making kicks of 50-plus yards, nailing a 53-yarder that season, plus two more from beyond 50.

With his current contract having expired, the Lions decided to play hardball with the 21-year veteran by only offering him the veteran’s minimum, despite contributing one of his best season’s to the franchise. This offer, which would have been just under $1 million for the 2012 season, would have been a nearly 66% drop off from his 2012 salary of $3.2 million. Nursing a mild heel injury, Hanson decided not to accept the Lions’ disrespectful offer, and instead retired. Thus, the curse began to take form.

For the 2013 season, the Lions signed David Akers as their placekicker. While Akers’s numbers were respectable (19-of-24 for a 79.2%), the Lions had tried out other kickers throughout the season, and did not appear satisfied with Akers, who was not retained for the 2014 season. And now all hell has broken loose.

No matter who has been kicking field goals for the Lions this season, success has been out of reach. Seventh round pick Nate Freese out of Boston College converted just three of his seven attempted kicks, not even making distance on 50-yard kicks. Alex Henery who the team brought in three weeks into the season after releasing Nate Freese fared no better. After making 86.1% off his kicks with the Eagles over three seasons, Henery lasted just two games after hooking all but one of his five kicks and costing the Lions their home contest against the Buffalo Bills.

Amid much fanfare last week, the Lions signed ex-Broncos All-Pro Matt Prater following his reactivation following a four-game suspension “for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.” However, it was also reported that Jason Hanson had volunteered to come out of retirement and kick for his former team, but that the offer was declined by the Lions. So it should come as no surprise that Prater missed two of the three field goals he attempted last Sunday against the Vikings, albeit in windy conditions (though this didn’t prevent Vikings kicker Blair Walsh from converting his lone field goal attempt).

While things may look bleak at the moment, in terms of the Lions kicking game, one game from Matt Prater is too soon to tell whether he will be able to change the tide for the Lion’s special teams this season. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Lions fans are hoping they won’t have to endure another 48 years of abysmal field goal kicking, as a reward for the team’s skinflint approach towards the most stalwart player in team history.


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