We've had some surprising debate over the release of Connor Barth this week. I personally have taken the position that this was a mistake. Many have expressed their surprise at the high level of debate (drama) this has sparked here at AP. I'll try to keep it short enough, but I wanted to make the case as to why this is a critical position and getting it right is so important.
In defense of Barth's release by the Chiefs, many here are of the opinion that if Succop sucks, we'll get rid of him and bring in the next kicker. It's not a big deal because they don't have to learn the playbook. Well, true, they don't but...
KICKERS ARE HEAD CASES.
If we have to replace Succop, who is an unproven rookie with mediocre college statistics, at mid-season then we have a compound problem. For starters, the best kickers are already on teams. It takes practice to be consistently good. If a guy is just hanging around at mid season waiting for a spot to open up, he's there hanging around for a reason. :-\ He's also not likely to have been practicing as though he were on a team. :-\ That tends to make a guy rusty. As far as the mechanics of kicking go, I have a bit of a frame of reference here because I played competitive soccer for nearly 30 years and I also did some kicking in highschool football. Any golfers here? Yeah, the level of difficulty is similar to driving a golf ball straight down the fairway. The only way to get good is to practice. Let me tell you, kicking and oblong ball with power and accuracy under variable wind conditions is an art. It's more difficult than you might think.
The really weird thing about a kicker on a football team is that they often exist on the fringe in the locker room. What they do requires a ton of practice and technique. On the field, it's probably the single most individualistic function in the game. Kickers often practice pretty much by themselves and yet they bear the responsibility for putting a large number of points on the board for the team. If they get into a rut, it can be a massive head trip for them. They have to battle with themselves mentally and physically to correct their mechanics, not to mention their shaken confidence which can also be a tough to overcome. Fans boo at them. They have 52 of the biggest meanest toughest hombre's on earth looking at them in disappointment because they're costing the team wins. Coaches start closing in on them to see what they can do to correct the problem. Rightfully so to all of these things, but in many ways this all feeds on itself and makes everything more difficult on the kicker.
If the Chiefs were to just release Succop because he's not doing well after five or six weeks and they bring in the next kicker, the odds are stacked against him. He has to come in when everybody's (fans, players and coaches) confidence in the kicking game is already dammaged and knock the rust off in a hurry. That's a couple of strikes against the guy already. Like I said, kickers are head cases. Their game is incredibly mental. That's why you have to be sure about who your kicker is going into the start of the season. It's a far more critical and difficult position to get right than most people realize.
Not having Barth in camp in my opinion is a mistake whether he would have won the job over Succop or not. The only way to have known would to have them compete for the job. OTA's don't equate game scenarios where pre-season games do.