A little over a year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs made the decision to cut their kicker Ryan Succop and go with undrafted rookie Cairo Santos. This head-scratching move caused many Kansas City fans, including me, to be up in arms over the decision.
The 2010 Mr. Irrelevant draft pick by K.C. wasn’t one of the best kickers in the league but was the best in Chiefs history, successfully making 119 of 149 field goals in his five seasons. It seems that Succop just missed too many big kicks to deserve the contract his agent was asking for, and with Alex Smith wanting an extension, they rolled the dice on the rookie.
The Chiefs had just come off a playoff loss in 2013 before Succop was cut, so fans felt as though the front office wasn’t making a good decision to solidify the team’s chances at a repeat trip to the postseason. The Tennessee Titans picked up Succop days after being released by the Chiefs, which made for a perfect revenge on opening day in Kansas City. Succop was four for four, including a 47-yarder in that game, making a case for why Kansas City should have paid him. The Twitter timeline on Sept. 14 is pretty entertaining to read from Chiefs fans commenting on their lack of enthusiasm in the decision to go with Santos.
However, after the first game, K.C. fans warmed up a little more to the”Brazilian Bomber,”and while he may not have been one of the best kickers in the league, he certainly made a case for himself. Santos made 25-of-30 field goal attempts, which left him with an 83-percent completion compared to Ryan Succop’s 86-percent success rate (19-of-22 attempts).
Since I’m comparing a rookie to a four-year veteran, it’s only fair I compare Succop’s rookie season as well. Succcop made 20-of-26 field goal attempts in his rookie season, leaving him with a 76 field goal percentage.
One area that Santos has struggled with according to Pro Football Focus was kickoff returns. Santos averaged a return rate of 66.7 percent in the 16 games he played, which was second worst in the league. Succop was 17th in the league according to PFF with 46 percent. The promising highlight here is that Succop was dreadful his first year with a 83.8 percent return on kickoffs, which should give hope to Chiefs fans that Santos can improve in this area to become an overall better kicker.
Santos honestly has a cool story; he made lots of headlines last year when he was quoted saying, “I went out and bought a Madden game for my X-Box, that’s how I learned the rules, the positions and the players.” His rookie season got off to a shaky start being out-performed by the kicker he replaced in the opening week. Going into the fourth week of the season, Santos was only kicking 50 percent for the season. During that Monday Night Football in Week 4 though, Santos made both field goals he attempted, catapulting him into 14 straight made field goals, including a game winner against the Chargers in Week 7.
Santos had a bad game against Oakland in Week 15, going one-for-three but then finished the season strong making eight-of-nine field goals. This resiliency reinforces the fact that this kid was worth the gamble. Fans in Kansas City are hoping that the strong finish to the 2014 season transitions smoothly into the 2015 season. With the recent changes the NFL made to the extra point attempts after touchdowns, Cairo seemed fairly confident that he’d be able to make the adjustment, according to a recent interview.
What do you think, Addicts? In Santos we trust?