No one is saying anything about Harrison Butker that he doesn’t already know.
There’s a back and forth going on among Kansas City Chiefs fans concerning Harrison Butker. That word choice is important—the word “concerning”—because Chiefs Kingdom is actually just that, concerned, about their young kicker.
In case you somehow haven’t noticed this season, Butker has been both a legend and a letdown. He’s made booming kicks from ridiculously far-out distances to give the Chiefs yet another weapon in their scoring arsenal. He’s also cost the team several simple points, missing numerous extra points in game after game (after game).
To bring some numbers into the picture, Butker has missed only two field goals all season, with a success rate of 15 of 17 kicks converted which is good for 88.2 percent. He’s also 3 for 3 from 50 yards out or more and his excellent range gives the Chiefs the option to go for three points from farther than most teams can imagine. Suddenly the Chiefs have choices other franchises do not when stalled on a drive.
On the flip side, Butker has missed 6 extra points this season and he’s done so in 6 games. Remember these are the gimmes here, the assumed single point tackled onto a touchdown. Yet Butker has missed them on six separate occasions. This is important because it’s not about one bad game or a really windy day. This is six days with six different opponents, six different field conditions, six different weather patterns, and six different mindsets. And Butker has caused us to shake our heads in all of them.
This is not okay. Chiefs fans have been frustrated on social media, despite the team’s 8-1 performance so far in 2020. Fans realize that it’s likely only a matter of time until such a problem actually affects the end of a game, and in the postseason, it’s one-and-done. On Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, it actually could have come into play then since a missed extra point was the difference between the Chiefs two-point lead and a potential three-point lead at the end. Given that K.C. was up by two, the Panthers field-goal attempt at the end of regulation was for the win and not a tie.
So yes, Butker’s “yips” or “hiccups” or “mental woes” or whatever is causing these misses are problematic. But here’s also the other thing: Butker himself would likely agree with all of this. It’s likely that no one is more frustrated about this than the player himself—not the fans, not his own coaches, not his teammates. It’s probably safe to assume that Butker is putting in more work than ever to try to get things right—watching film to see what went wrong, talking and processing the mental side with trusted professionals, practicing again and again to try to put all of this behind him.
There’s some sentiment floating online that these concerns are not valid, that fans need to lighten up because Butker is still making the big kicks. But Butker himself would likely frown at that. Kickers are expected to not only convert the vast majority of their field goal attempts; they’re also expected to make all of their extra points. In fact, it’s so expected that we don’t even notice them. It’s the thankless job, the covert agent who never gets credit for the rescue.
At the same time, berating Butker online as if he is not aware of his own issues is also not the right approach. The Chiefs don’t need to think of replacing Butker anytime soon (which is good because he’s only in year two of a five-year extension). Butker is an incredible talent whose accuracy and power has been a tremendous asset for three-plus seasons. Six missed extra points doesn’t erase his body of work.
That said, Butker and the rest of Chiefs Kingdom knows that these chip shots have to be made. Together with Tommy Townsend and James Winchester, the Chiefs special teams need to shore up sloppy mistakes and miscues if the team wants to repeat as champs. That’s also true of the rest of the team from Andy Reid to Patrick Mahomes.
Butker knows what needs to be done and given his track record, we can trust he will get things right.