A couple of years ago, it looked like the Los Angeles Chargers might have finally found the solution to their kicker problem. After going through an absolute carousel of kickers in 2017, they finally found somebody new to stick with in Michael Badgley, who seemed quite solid at first. But in 2020, the wheels have started to fall off, and his deficiencies as a kicker have become more clear. The Chargers need to start a new search this off-season, if not sooner.
The Michael Badgley Problem
The Good Start
More casual Chargers fans who have been watching Badgley lately may forget or even be unaware that he was actually fairly good and reliable when he started. Out of 16 field goals, he only missed one of them and only missed one extra point as well. He hit a game-winner against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also hit a 59-yard field goal at one point, which remains his career-long.
While he missed half of the 2019 season due to injury, that season wasn’t half-bad either. He missed three kicks out of 16 this time, but he was 100% on extra points. He didn’t cost the team any games either, so there wasn’t any reason at the time to think anything was the matter with the kicker position.
The 2020 Season
The 2020 season is where things have really started to fall off the rails for Badgley. He has made 20-for-29 kicks, which is an ugly 69.0%–and currently a league-worst among qualifying kickers. He has particularly struggled to deliver at critical times in 2020, which has cost the team at least one game and almost cost them another. On Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, Badgley had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but he did a Cody Parkey impersonation and they went to overtime and lost.
Most recently on Thursday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders, he had two opportunities in the final five minutes to win it for the Chargers – and missed both times and they went to overtime again. Fortunately, that time Justin Herbert bailed them out and Badgley was off the hook (and it’s quite possible Herbert saved Badgley’s job too as a result, for now).
The Achilles Heel
If one takes a closer look at Michael Badgley’s kicking stats – going back to 2019 before he completely imploded, even – there is an interesting trend. Specifically, regarding Badgley’s percentage past 45 yards.
Michael Badgley is 100% perfect on field goal attempts inside 45 yards this year. (He has missed three extra points, but still.) Of his nine misses, every single one has been from past 45 yards. He’s only made a total of three kicks higher than 45 yards. He is 2-for-6 past 50 yards and 9-for-18 past 40 yards. If you look further back, all three of his misses in 2019 came past 45 yards as well – and so did his lone miss in 2018. Oh, and that number about him being 100% perfect on field goals inside 45 yards this year? That also applies to his entire career (again, not including extra points).
In other words, if you need a shorter “gimme” kick, Badgley actually is pretty reliable. But when you start getting into longer kicks, he has become incredibly unreliable. And it’s not even like he doesn’t have the leg – he made a 59-yarder once, and his kicks never come up short. He just can’t seem to get the accuracy right almost ever when he goes past 45 yards.
While it’s good to know Badgley can generally be depended on in short-range, it’s simply not going to work to have a kicker who can’t reliably hit it from longer distances. Of course, the 20-for-29 figures are grounds for cutting him regardless. But if the Chargers decide to stick it out the final two weeks (and it’s not like it matters at 5-9), they might as well just go for it on fourth down every time it would require Badgley to kick a field goal longer than 45 yards. Their chances of converting might actually be better, even if it’s 4th & 10. Regardless, expect the Chargers to have a new kicker in 2021.
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