Normally in football, statistics don't lie. So when a certain Bills kicker, over four-plus seasons in Buffalo, has connected on 96 of 117 attempts (82%) and scored 424 points in those seasons, you may think that the Bills have found themselves a pretty good kicker. And, using those statistics as a base line, Rian Lindell is a pretty good kicker.
But it may end there. Lindell is not considered a great kicker; at best, he's a steady veteran. Here's an opinion that isn't exactly a news flash to Bills fans: Lindell will never be a great kicker. Why? Simple - he misses too many important kicks.
A Few Too Many Examples
To be fair, Lindell has been pretty accurate during his time in Buffalo, and has made plenty of kicks to warrant the five years he's spent here. But if you recall, prior to the end of the 2006 season, Lindell received a five-year extension that will keep him in Buffalo for the forseeable future. Was the kicker worth that contract?
That can be debated, obviously, but what we know is this: in just the last two years, 2006 and the first 5 games of 2007, Lindell has missed four of 30 field goal attempts. 87% is very good. What's not good: all four of those misses had devastating or near-devastating effects on the outcome of the game.
Lindell's first, and least important, blunder came in a home contest against the Minnesota Vikings. Buffalo ended up winning that game 17-12, but it took a drop by former Viking wideout Marcus Robinson on a fly pattern to seal the loss for Minnesota. Lindell missed a field goal in that game - a field goal that could have tacked a few years onto each life that witnessed that game.
His second - and final - missed kick of 2006 came in Indianapolis, as the 3-5 Bills were attempting to become the first team to take down the undefeated Colts. Lindell missed with the Bills trailing 17-16; that ended up being the final score of the game. Indianapolis became the first team in NFL history to start consecutive reasons 9-0 - but they shouldn't have.
Then there's 2007. Lindell is just 3 of 5 on the season, and his two misses have come in one-point losses to the Broncos and the Cowboys. When a kicker misses this many important kicks, there is definite cause for concern - no matter how steady he is otherwise.
Aren't All Kicks "Big"?
It can be argued that all kicks in the NFL are big. And, figuring there is some truth to that, Lindell has made some big kicks. Most prominent among them was a field goal that sealed a 27-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last season - arguably the biggest kick Lindell has made in a Bills uniform.
The argument that all kicks are big, however, fails to cover up for Lindell's big misses. My view on this is simple - Lindell will never be more than a very good kicker for a mediocre football team. He's not a guy who would get a look from, say, the Patriots or Colts - teams that are used to making big kicks. Lindell has not had many opportunities to make big kicks playing in Buffalo; that is somewhat to his credit, but also magnifies his misses.
Yet we're stuck with him. "Stuck" is a negative term that doesn't necessarily apply here, because as I've repeated (purposely), Lindell is a good kicker. For better or worse, he'll be here for the next five years.
But questions will linger. One of them will be spoken most often by me; until Lindell starts making field goals as big as the ones he's missed this season, I will continue to beg the question: "Is Lindell a kicker the Bills can win with?"