For all of you out there waiting with bated breath on who your team might hire or fire, perhaps they are making a run at a title or simply trying to salvage their season. The signing of kicker Roberto Aguayo to become a member of the Chargers should be something to think about; this is because like everyone else in the NFL he is a human, prone to mistakes and led by emotions. So to see him get a job back in the big time is a positive, especially during the sea of firings and blaming throughout the NFL at the moment.
For those of you who don’t know who Roberto Aguayo is, he is a kicker. But oh no not like the others you know such as Justin Tucker, Graham Gano or Matt Bryant. Who were all undrafted coming out of college, but have since made successful careers in the league? Aguayo was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft with the 59th pick. As a kicker! Players such as Dak Prescott, Jordan Howard and Tyreek Hill were drafted after this guy. Now it’s not like he was a bum in college or anything, in fact. Aguayo led the ACC in points in 2013, on his way to winning the Lou Groza Award for the best placekicker in the country. He was named First Team All-American and First Team All-ACC 3 years in a row from 2013-15, twice an ACC champion and a national champion in 2013. So when he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft, he did so as the most accurate kicker in ACC history and the 3rd most accurate kicker in NCAA history. What was so perplexing about it, was that it was a 2nd round pick used to get him. As history has shown you don’t need to draft a kicker high for him to be successful. It had been over a decade since a team had done the same thing the Bucs had; it was the Jets in 2005 drafting Mike Nugent 47th overall. I think that the Buccaneers were scared into taking him by other teams saying they would as well as believing he’d rarely miss providing them with an excellent scoring asset in close games. What happened after Aguayo was drafted was entirely different than that.
Aguayo, a fresh-faced rookie just 21 years old signed his rookie contract which contained a $1.15 million signing bonus. For a rookie kicker! That is how much the Tampa Bay organisation believed in him, thinking he would just continue the record form he had shown in college into the pros. Aguayo had a tough rookie season as the Bucs kicker, hitting just 71% of his field goals and missing 2 extra points. Not at all meeting the expectations he was set by the management, coaches and fans for a 2nd round pick. It’s that, which I think undermind him and his confidence, as a kicker. The crushing weight of expectation surrounding him to be automatic, to never miss a kick in his professional career, the fact he was selected so high, something he couldn’t control. He was ridiculed and tormented by fans and the media for not making every kick. The Bucs instead of sticking with him through his rough rookie season, decided to bring some competition in form of former New York Jets kicker Nick Folk to try and raise his game. Folk was given a $750,000 guaranteed by Tampa Bay, which was more than Aguayo’s salary. I don’t know about you, but if I was Aguayo hearing that the team that drafted you only a year ago is already looking for your replacement would make me more nervous to do my job. As I know that if I mess up now they have my replacement looking at me during every practice, waiting to take my job.
Before the start of this season, the Bucs made their first appearance on HBO documentary series Hard Knocks. It chronicles the everyday life of a team during training camp, one focus of the series this year was that of the battle between Aguayo and Folk. As you can imagine it was overwatched, over scrutinised and overwritten about as a focal point of this Buccaneers team. In the end, they kept both players on through training camp, but when Aguayo missed a 47-yard field goal and an extra point in the first preseason game, the Buccaneers waived him from the team. Aguayo then was picked up by the Chicago Bears in August, didn’t kick at all in any games and was released in September. In October, he was signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad, but by just December he was released. A long and torrid time for a man simply trying to regain the form he showed in college that made him a 2nd round pick.
It has taken not even a month for the Los Angeles Chargers to sign Aguayo to a Reserve/Future contract. Considering all of the difficulties the Chargers have had in recent memory with their kickers. Such as this season where they lost 4 games by 3 points or less and only missed getting into the playoffs by one win, picking up Aguayo might not be a bad move. Now before you judge took quickly and think I’m being too kind to him, about his inability to choose when he got drafted and the subsequent pressure placed upon him. I do just like you reading this, also believe, he is a professional athlete who when his number is called whether in a regular season game, preseason or training session. He needs to make those kicks. period. But if you look at it from the other side of the coin, he had the potential, the technique, the success to make him worth enough in the Bucs eyes to trade up in the 2nd round to draft him.
Being a kicker and moving from college to the NFL doesn’t seem like that hard a transition for an armchair fan because these players don’t have to learn a new system like a quarterback does. So in my mind that provides more pressure, there are no excuses you’re just doing something you’ve done all your life the only thing that changes is your being paid to do it now. So what Aguayo and the Chargers need to do is move him along slowly in his progression and allow him to regain his confidence again because it’s not like he can suddenly lose all the talent he had in college in the blink of an eye. It must be a confidence issue amongst other things. So allow him to gel with his teammates, not to have the burden of a 2nd round pick on his shoulders, work, train and kick well during the offseason, into the preseason and hopefully we will see Roberto Aguayo next season.