San Diego Chargers Kicker Nate Kaeding

Forget about the postseason woes of the San Diego Chargers over the last half-decade, the experts would say – just look at all they have accomplished. Indeed, they have owned the West division of the American Football Conference since 2006, and have compiled an impressive streak of sinning seasons that has not been seen in San Diego since the team’s success in the Sixties. Still, for fans of the team, the experts are wasting their breath. Those playoff woes play heavily into the impressions of success that the team’s supporters carry with them – and for many fans, each and every squandered opportunity at a Super Bowl title over the last four years is the result of a storyline with but one villain: Nate Kaeding, the team’s kicker.

The Hawkeye turned Charger

Kaeding was selected by the Chargers in the 2004 Draft. They were only able to get him due to receiving several favorable lottery picks as part of the Eli Manning and Philip Rivers draft/trade deal done that year, and there was quite a bit of excitement surrounding his selection. After all, the Iowa City, Iowa native had earned a national reputation during his college career with the Hawkeyes – even winning the Lou Groza kicking award after the season of 2002. As a Hawkeye, he was known as “Mister Automatic”, for his ability to seemingly always make his team’s field goals when they were needed most. He was particularly deadly from long range, as he had a career record of 24 forty-plus yard field goals made out of the 29 he attempted. That included twenty out of twenty one made during his senior campaign.

The good

Even as a Charger, Kaeding has gone on to set records. During the 2009 season, he became the most accurate kicker in the history of the National Football League with an overall percentage of field goals made that is in excess of eighty-seven percent. Throughout the regular season campaigns in San Diego, his performance in many ways mirrors what he did while at Iowa City. In one season, he missed only three total field goals throughout the sixteen-game season. Unfortunately, all of that is easily overshadowed in the minds of many Chargers fans by his inability to make the important field goals when they matter most: the playoffs.

Missing the big ones

For example, Kaeding missed a 54-yard field goal against the Patriots during the 2006 playoffs. Had he made it, he could have tied the game. Then, in 2007, a missed field goal against Tennessee and one against the Colts could have easily ended the Chargers’ season. They eventually lost to the Patriots that year in the AFC title game. The worst postseason performance came in the 2009 playoffs against the Jets. In that performance, Kaeding missed the only three field goals he attempted. Had he made just one, the game would have gone to overtime – two out of three would have won it.

For Kaeding, his status as Chargers choker is now so set in stone that many fans are already calling for him to be traded. That unfortunate moniker will no doubt be a part of his career for a long time to come – or at least until he begins to change the narrative by once again earning his old nickname of Mister Automatic.

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