Why the Patriots made the right choice for Gostkowski's replacement with Mike Nugent as kicker


FOXBORO -- Call it making the best of a bad situation.

When the Patriots chose Mike Nugent as their next kicker, the guy who will be replacing Stephen Gostkowski, they made the most logical decision of the choices they were presented.

For one, Nugent has experience. The 37-year-old has bounced around the league since getting drafted by the Jets in the second round back in 2005. He spent the first three years of his career as the primary kicker for the Jets. He later was the No. 1 for the Bengals for seven years. He's played in 161 games and attempted 311 field goals, making 81.4 percent of those over the last 14 years.

Experience, we know, is something the Patriots value. The oldest team to break training camp in 2019 actually got a little older in replacing the 35-year-old Gostkowski with Nugent.

More importantly, though, Nugent has experience outdoors. With the Jets, Bucs, Bengals, Giants, Bears and Raiders, six of the seven teams that have employed Nugent played their games outdoors. The vast majority of Nugent's games -- playing primarily in the AFC East and AFC North in his career -- have come outdoors: 144 of his 162.

Nugent has made 230 of his 284 field goal attempts in the elements, which is an 81 percent clip. That's a significant drop from Gostkowski's 87 percent hit rate outdoors, but it's a slight uptick from Adam Vinatieri's 80.6 career percentage outdoors. The Patriots can work with that.

Bill Belichick sang Gostkowski's praises in explaining the importance of having a kicker who can deal with the weather back in 2015. He was asked if Gostkowski was the best bad-weather kicker he'd coached.

"Yeah, he’s up there," Belichick said. "The two guys we’ve had our probably as good as you can get, so I’ve been very fortunate to have Adam and Steve. They’ve both kicked in some very challenging conditions and kicked well. I think that’s really the measure of it is how they kick against other guys that are kicking on that same day. It’s hard to compare a kicker here to a kicker in a dome, but when they both kick on the same field on the same day then you can see how kickers – not that they’re ever on the field at the same time – but at least you can see how they kick in comparable conditions. Steve, I have great confidence and trust in him in all situations. He’s very mentally tough and consistent to whatever it is to deal with it and make it, still play well, still perform well."

Other Patriots options to replace Gostkowski included Kai Forbath, who made 87.5 percent of his outdoor kicks but has more than 200 fewer attempts outside than Nugent. Younghoe Koo -- who the Patriots brought aboard their practice squad, according to ESPN -- has only played outdoors, making three of six attempts. Another of the kickers who tried out this week, Josh Gable, kicked in the Indoor Football League and didn't play college football.

No one the Patriots brought in was going to provide the kind of consistent accuracy that Gostkowski has on his way to becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer. But in Nugent, someone who played his college football at Ohio State and has spent more than a decade dealing with the elements, the Patriots made a logical choice.

For a team that will play most of its most important games of the year outdoors -- including a late-season matchup with the Chiefs and any potential home playoff games -- Nugent gives the Patriots someone who's seen his share of weather and should know how to react to a swirling wind, wet footing or a half-frozen football.


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