After Giorgio Tavecchio missed his first kick of the preseason, the clamoring for Falcons’ legend Matt Bryant to return to Atlanta had already begun. Sure, it was minimal and mostly joking, but it was there.
Tavecchio has now missed three kicks during the 2019 preseason, and the cries for Bryant have only gotten louder. It’s not entirely surprising: Bryant was the franchise’s best kicker, is beloved by the fanbase, and was kicking for the team just last season. The decision to go with the younger, cheaper option in Tavecchio was not necessarily popular among the fans to begin with. Regardless of our feelings on it, the decision was made—and it’s clear the Falcons plan to stick with Tavecchio for the long haul.
That’s why it’s so important for fans to be patient with Tavecchio. Particularly during the preseason, when none of these kicks really count. It’s hard to stand by and watch missed kicks—it sucks, especially when we’re used to FGs being almost automatic. But we’ve still got two more preseason games to go, and the situation might not be as dire as it first appears.
First off, let’s make it clear that Tavecchio isn’t just missing easy kicks left and right. Tavecchio is currently 4/7 on FG attempts in the preseason, which is good for 57%. While those aren’t good numbers by any stretch, they aren’t abysmal either. All of Tavecchio’s missed kicks have come from greater than 52 yards—they’ve been from 54, 52, and 52 yards, respectively. Those are not “gimme” attempts, although they are attempts you’d expect an NFL kicker to make the majority of the time. One of these was also tipped, which is hard to blame on the kicker.
Tavecchio is also 3/3 on PATs this preseason, which are now the equivalent of short FGs. We’ve seen several opposing kickers miss these, so we should give Tavecchio credit where it’s due.
This hasn’t exactly been an inspiring preseason for Tavecchio, but it also hasn’t been a total trainwreck. The best move for the Falcons is to stick with Tavecchio and make it clear that they have total confidence in him—which, to be fair, is exactly what the team has done.
Kicking is a very psychologically intense position: there’s a tremendous amount of pressure concentrated into only a handful of plays a game. We’ve seen many teams botch the development of their young/new kickers by publicly calling them out and/or having insane “kicking competitions”.
The Bucs may have ruined the extremely talented Roberto Aguayo altogether by their handling of his drafting and subsequent struggles. The Bears had a talented kicker in Cody Parkey who missed one playoff FG (that was tipped, mind you) and immediately forced him out the door. Now they’re in the midst of a full on kicker controversy.
Tavecchio doesn’t have the weight of expectations that a second-round draft pick might have, but he does have incredibly large shoes to fill. Taking over for a franchise icon is never easy, and it’s a stressful job. Italian Ice deserves the rest of the preseason—at least—to show us he belongs in a Falcons uniform long-term.
It’s also unclear whether Bryant would even be willing to return to Atlanta, and there’s the painful truth that he has so far remained unsigned by the other 31 NFL teams. That’s not to say that Tavecchio is beyond reproach. At a certain point, the Falcons will have to make a decision as to whether or not to roll the dice on Tavecchio in 2019. A strong finish to the preseason would go a long way to calm Falcons’ fans fears.
Let’s give him that chance before we bring out the pitchforks.