There are some questions that need to be asked in the face of Harrison Butker’s recent injury and subsequent struggles in his return to the field.
It is a question that needs to be asked: what is going on with Harrison Butker?
Kansas City’s kicker is normally lights out when it comes to field goals. But at the moment, it seems like every single light in the house is on during broad daylight on a sunny summer afternoon when Butker is lining up for a field goal. Now, that might be a slight overreaction. But after a poor performance against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night, and in the midst of a shaky season in front of the uprights, his underwhelming form is starting to draw attention.
To be clear, while questions should be raised, what is certainly not being questioned here is Butker’s spot on the team. He is the best kicker in the NFL not named Justin Tucker, and he has shown time and time again that he is capable of hitting the big kicks when it matters most. And after all, he did nail what would be the game-winning field goal in overtime against Tennessee.
At the same time, Butker certainly seems to be in a slump, and far from his usual reliable self. Butker missed both an extra point and a field goal against the Titans. It was his first wayward extra point of the season, but, unfortunately, missed field goals have been a regular sight. He is five from eight on field goal attempts this season, converting just 63% of kicks – the lowest percentage of any kicker currently on an NFL roster and well, well below his career average of 88.8%.
Butker has missed a field goal in each of his last three games—a 39-yarder against San Francisco, a 51-yarder against Buffalo, and most recently a 47-yard attempt against the Titans—which is the first time that has happened in his career. Sunday’s blown kick was his third field goal miss in four games, the same number of misses he has had in the entirety of last season.
The numbers don’t lie: Butker has clearly been off this season.
So what has been the problem? An injury on opening day, and on his first kickoff of the season, could certainly be the answer. After rolling his non-kicking ankle in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, Butker was sidelined for the next four games. It was the first time in his career he had been out for back-to-back games, let alone out for more than a month.
Now I’m no doctor, but ankles generally seem to be pretty important when it comes to football, even more so for kickers. Butker and Kansas City’s medical staff clearly think he is fit enough to play, but perhaps we are seeing evidence that he isn’t quite back to full health just yet. Another explanation might be that despite being healthy, Butker is simply out of touch after four weeks out of action. We see it with players all the time who return from injuries—sometimes it can take them a while to find their grove again. Or maybe, simply put, Butker is just in the middle of a slump. It happens to the best of players. Heck, we saw Patrick Mahomes go through the exact same thing last season.
But like Mahomes, Butker is without doubt one of the elite players at his position. And again, just like we saw Mahomes do last season, I’m expecting we will see Butker fire back into action in the coming weeks. While we have seen Butker struggle at times, we also saw him drill a 62-yarder against the Bills at Arrowhead in Week 6, the longest field goal in Chiefs history. And let’s not forget, Butker is still ranked second in the history of the NFL when it comes to career field goal percentage (88.824%).
Butker is performing below his usual elite standards, but the law of averages and his career history both suggest that he is more than capable of getting back on target. Normally, you would back Butker to hit just about any field goal for the Chiefs. And even though he might have been more wayward this season than we are used to seeing, I am still backing him to bounce back and play a crucial, game-winning role for Kansas City this season.
Harrison Butker? He’ll be right.