Lions special teams OC: "We've made the exact right call" on kickers


The Lions have had a kicking problem since letting two-time Pro Bowler Matt Prater depart in free agency two years ago. Hard to deny when they've signed 10 different kickers looking for a solution.

Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp doesn't really agree: "I think saying that there’s been 10 kickers in here makes it sound worse than it is."

"Is this an ideal situation to be in? Obviously not, but such is life," Fipp said Thursday. "It’s not like we really controlled any of it. Personally, I think we’ve made the exact right call the whole way. Would we like a different outcome? Oh yeah, we would like to hit on the next All-Pro kicker, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

"We’ll see what happens. I strongly believe that it’ll settle down. We’ll look back at this thing at the end of the year and say, ‘You know what, we got good production out of that position.' I think we can turn it around. It’s still early in the year."

Over seven years with Prater, the Lions were one of the best kicking teams in the NFL. Now they're one of the worst. They ran through six kickers last year looking for Prater's replacement, including a few guys who wound up thriving for other teams. (Because of course.) They've rostered four kickers this year and rank last in the NFL in field goals and field goal percentage (66.7) and 26th in extra point percentage (87.5).

"It’s been a challenge," said Fipp. "It has not been ideal, but I think we’re on the right track and we’ll keep working through it. I mean, people aren’t just throwing out good (kickers) and there’s a bunch of teams looking for them right now. And the later you get in the season, the harder it gets to find somebody who can come in and play at a high level."

The Lions entered training camp this season with Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson, their two main kickers last season. Rejuvenated after dealing with a hip injury last year, Seibert won the job and the Lions "thought we had the answer to the question," said Fipp. So they cut Patterson, who signed with the Jaguars and has since hit 90 percent of his field goals and all of his extra points. (Because of course.)

Naturally, Seibert injured his groin three games into the season and was cut last week.

"Ultimately, Seibert didn’t feel good," said Fipp. "He had some discomfort and didn’t feel great and wasn’t able to go."

With Seibert on the shelf, the Lions turned to practice squad kicker Dominik Eberle, who was promptly released after missing two extra points in a loss to the Seahawks in Week 4, then signed veteran Michael Badgley but kept him on the bench in a shutout loss to the Patriots in Week 5 even though he had made four of four field goals for the Bears the week prior.

Detroit also signed veteran Sam Ficken last week. It sounds like Ficken and Badgley will compete for the starting job Sunday against the Cowboys and for the rest of the season.

Essentially, Fipp said the Lions had "two (kickers) primarily last year and hopefully we end up having two primarily this year and it settles down."

Prater, 38, signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Cardinals coming off a down season with Detroit in 2020 and has since hit 83.7 percent of his field goals and 96.2 percent of his extra points. It wasn't necessarily a mistake by Brad Holmes and the Lions to let him go; they weren't going to spend that much money on a kicker in the first year of a rebuild. Their mistake was failing to find a competent replacement.

Fipp, who took over special teams for the Lions last season, acknowledged the club "lost a good player" in Prater and "the goal was to find the next guy." A year and a half later, they're still working on it.

"But overall, from our decision-making process, I don’t regret or second-guess any of the moves we’ve made up to this point," Fipp said. "In hindsight, you would do some things differently maybe, but we obviously don’t have the benefit of all the information."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman / Staff