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Is it the Kansas City Chiefs long snapper or holder?

It's a problem many are talking about this week.

In the past three games, Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos has missed two field goals, an extra point and pulled up without kicking on another field goal attempt.

Is it a factor of playing three games in the rain? Is long snapper James Winchester not snapping well? Is there an issue with blocking? Is Dustin Colquitt getting the hold down?

Quotes from Andy Reid's press conference this week sound ominous for Chiefs current long snapper James Winchester as the blame for the most recent issue seems to lie with him.

Q: Do you have a problem with your PAT and field goal operation?

REID: "Well, we’ve been a little inconsistent the last couple weeks on the snaps. We’ve got to fix that, so we’ll go back to basics and fundamentals there."

Q: It looked like the snap on the missed field goal didn’t look very good, was that the problem before that?

REID: "I’d say yes and we mishandled one, yeah.

Q: Is the long snapper position a process that you expect to be automatic?

REID: "Well I’d tell you that nothing’s automatic when humans are involved in it. You have to focus in on it and you have to concentrate and work your techniques, make sure your hands are following through the proper way, all the little things that you need to do to stay consistent at it. And then you add weather into it, and now you go back and you bank on those fundamentals and you have to trust those things. He’s learning, he’s new at this, this is his first year being a full-time guy."

Q: Are you going to stick with James Winchester?

REID: "Sure, I’m there today with him. Yeah."

That last answer is the most telling and ominous.  It reminds me of this quote regarding a certain player that was released shortly thereafter and is currently on the Browns bench.

There was some speculation that the Chiefs would be working out long snappers soon but we don't know (yet) if they have this week.  Their long time Long Snapper was released and signed with Oakland... he would have been a logical guy to bring back if they were "done" with Winchester.

In the least interesting film review I've done to date, I went back and looked at each Winchester snap over the last three weeks to see if I could tell what was going wrong. And we don't usually look at the field goal / extra point operation until something has gone wrong.

We all tend to think of the long snapper position as a joke. Anything over league minimum seems like too much to pay these guys, and one mistake make them cut-worthy. Each offseason, there's a "battle" for the primary and backup long snappers that we sarcastically care about in training camp. But the snapper is one third of a very important group of specialists that we expect to be perfect all season.

On each snap where a kicker or punter is involved, critical points and field position are at stake and it all starts with a clean snap. The long snapper has to get a football in a tight spiral up to 45 feet between his legs and hit a target of about two square feet .... and it needs to get there between 0.7 seconds (punt) and 1.2 seconds (kick) to avoid being blocked.

San Diego game

Winchester was 5/7 on snaps based on what I saw. Below are notes on the two mistakes:

  • 46 yard field goal: snap was off target (low, and into Colquitt’s body), hold was bad (ball was at 45 degree angle to the side) and the kick no good. There was also quick pressure around both edges as Travis Kelce and Anthony Sherman appeared to miss blocks.
  • 41 yard punt: snap was wobbly and low, result of the play was a touchback.

Oakland game

Winchester was 6/9. Below are notes on the three mistakes

  • High snap (above the waist, but caught cleanly), result was a 51 yard punt (and a facemask penalty).
  • Snap a bit inside, hold looked bad and the extra point was missed.
  • Snap into Colquitt's body, bad hold (ball past 45 degree angle, almost flat), Santos pulls up and doesn’t kick it.

But even with the ball not ideally placed, Chiefs special-teams coach Dave Toub said he’d have preferred to see Cairo Santos attempt a kick.

"When Cairo came to kick it, the ball was on an angle, and he aborted the kick," Toub said. "The ball was still down. In a perfect world, we’d want him to try and kick that thing. That’s what we’ll do."

After the next touchdown, which gave the Chiefs a 26-20 lead, Santos simply pushed the kick right, and it was natural to wonder whether the miss had its origin in the botch.

"It could be a little bit," Toub said. "You doubt a little bit. Is the ball down? Is it perfect? But we’ll move on from that."

Read more here:

Buffalo game

Winchester was 7/7. The missed field goal was a good snap and hold but Santos just hit the crossbar from 54 yards away

Summing it up

  • Winchester generally has good velocity and spirals on his snaps.
  • When he misses, it's usually a bit to the inside (right), which makes it hard for Colquitt to get the hold down accurately.  Ideally, the snap should be aimed at the target hand of the holder, which is just on the outside edge of his numbers.
  • From the All-22, it's challenging to see exactly what caused the inaccuracies but it's a safe bet that somewhere in the mechanics of his snap he was slightly off center.
  • It's entirely possible that the rain and / or field conditions were a factor but it should be something that he can overcome with concentration and technique.
  • When the snap is a bit off, Colquitt appears to have trouble getting the ball in the proper upright position. He tends to rush it a bit when there's pressure coming as well.
  • However, when Winchester missed, he didn't miss by much ... just a foot or so inside where Colquitt could still catch it cleanly but still off just enough to disrupt the timing and placement of the hold.
  • Colquitt needs to get the ball into the "proper lean" as desired by Santos. It appears on good snaps that it's almost upright, but the top of the ball is tilted a bit towards the holder.
  • On each failed attempt, Colquitt's hold was at too much of an angle ... in the case of the one where Santos didn't kick it, it was nearly flat on the field.

So, is it an issue with the long snapper or the holder?  The answer: Yes. Both need to be better as the Chiefs attempt a playoff run.

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