The Minnesota Vikings are rolling. Sure, there have been ups and downs and quite a bit of luck, but the team is winning the games they couldn’t last season. Not everything has been peachy so far, though. Nervous Vikings fans will point out that Greg Joseph has been one of the least-accurate kickers in the league this year. The last regime would likely have been quick to move on from him. However, this year’s staff still seems to remain confident and believes in Greg the Leg. But should they?
To state the obvious, Joseph has not been good this season. Although it hasn’t cost the team any games yet, it seems like a matter of time before his struggles come back to bite them. He is 29th in FG% and 30th in XP% this year, and his nine total missed kicks are more than any other kicker in the league. Nothing about that stat line should instill any confidence in a fanbase who shudders at just hearing the words “field goal attempt.”
So why isn’t the team searching the ends of the earth for a replacement, bringing in fresh competition, or breaking out hypnosis tapes to fix this? It seems like this is a pretty major issue for a squad looking to make a deep postseason run. The answer appears that the coaching staff still has a lot of confidence in Joseph and his ability to put all those struggles behind him.
Kickers only have maybe three or four chances a game to show their stuff. Every opportunity counts. So, on the one hand, a good stretch of games puts him right back into the fans’ good graces. On the other, a few more missed kicks and even this staff has to at least consider a change at the position. So can Joseph get back on track?
Over the last 10 years, the average NFL field-goal conversion percentage has hovered around 84%. Joseph has a career rate of 83%, just below league average. Past performance isn’t always an accurate indicator of future performance, but a below-average career kicker doesn’t bode well, either. Along those same lines, the league average is 94% since extra points were moved back. Joseph holds a career 88% stat line, again below league average. Not to say he can’t become the kicker this team believes he can be, but his past performance also shows that he doesn’t have generational leg talent that the Vikings would be crazy to pass up.
Kickers are a different breed and can seemingly be a completely different player week to week or year to year. Take the Vikings’ NFC North rival Mason Crosby for example. A very good kicker for many years, he had a meltdown season in 2021, and yet Green Bay stuck with him. He’s now in his 16th year with the team. Not every kicker can come back. But whether Joseph has the yips, technical flaws, or some other weird kicker reason for missing kicks, he definitely has the coaches’ backing. That’s something that couldn’t be said in years past.
Mike Zimmer rushed much too quickly to judgment on Daniel Carlson, and now he’s one of the better kickers in the league. This coaching staff obviously runs things a little differently. But to play devil’s advocate, don’t they know what they have in Joseph at this point? Sure, he hasn’t missed a field goal inside 50 yards this year, but the league average making for those kicks is over 90% too. It seems like the Vikings are perfectly content letting Joseph ride out the rest of the season without competition.
When special teams coach Matt Daniels was asked about Joseph’s struggles, he reiterated his belief in correcting those issues, “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a concern.” He explained that he treats it a lot like a golfer’s swing. “We just have to get back to the basics, you have ups and downs, and for Greg, he just has to figure out how to control it but let it go all at the same time.”
So it’s obvious the team thinks these are correctable issues and isn’t hitting the panic button. To be fair, the Vikings have all but locked up the division, so they have time to work out kinks.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of immediately wanting to replace a guy who is struggling, especially in such a highly visible position. In past years, this team might be on its third kicker already by now. But Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell are definitely looking at the kicking woes as a fixable issue and aren’t swapping Joseph for the new model any time soon. The Vikings apparently love close games and refuse to blow anyone out, so kicking becomes all the more important as we draw nearer the playoffs.