Younghoe Koo had some big cleats to fill. When the Falcons signed the one-time Chargers kicker following the release of Matt Bryant, they were asking the fanbase and the coaching staff to trust a player who had been cut by his old team, spent some time with the Atlanta Legends, and been cut from the Patriots practice squad. This was no small thing given that Bryant took over halfway through the 2009 season and was the team’s unquestioned kicker through the 2018 season and 7 games of 2019.
Koo delivered. His 88.5% conversion rate on field goals through 8 games was stone solid, and he only missed one extra point along the way. The Falcons pledged to give him competition in the offseason but didn’t even bother, leaving him as the unquestioned kicker heading into 2020. Most fans liked that move, but there were lingering questions about his range, given that the Falcons gave him just one try at 50 yards last year and nothing beyond that. Koo created some mild anxiety when he missed a pair of extra points in the first three weeks and a field goal against Chicago in Week 3, as well.
Since then, Koo has missed one more extra point but has drilled 16 field goals without a miss over the last seven games. He’s a perfect 5 for 5 from 50+ yards, with a season long of 54 yards, and his only miss is from the 40-40 range. Right now, his 96% conversion rate on field goals is the second-best rate in team history, just behing Norm Johnson’s 96.3%. There’s a very real possibility, given the pace he’s on, that Koo will finish 2020 with the most accurate season in Falcons history. With the team stalling out repeatedly in the red zone, much to our chagrin, he even has an outside chance of meeting or exceeding the franchise mark for field goal attempts in a season (40, by Jay Feely) and field goals made in a season (34 by Matt Bryant, twice).
Koo is having a phenomenal season overall, in other words, and has swatted away doubts about his leg strength and viability as the team’s long-term kicker. Given that he’s converting at this clip, is just 26 years old, and has shown a mastery of onside kicks few players across the league can dream of, the Falcons should be figuring out a way to lock him up over the long haul this offseason, and figure to do so.
In a season where Foye Oluokun’s emergence, A.J. Terrell’s strong rookie season, and fun performances by players like Olamide Zaccheaus and Steven Means have been among the few true bright spots, Koo’s excellence deserves to be celebrated just as strongly. Hopefully the Falcons have gotten lucky enough to once again find a kicker who can deliver for them over the next decade.