After the dust had settled, Jim Caldwell said the Detroit Lions weren’t going to overreact. As one 24-7 loss goes early in the season, the coach was probably correct to make such a statement.
However, Caldwell wasn’t simply speaking in generalities about Detroit’s effort as a whole. He was being specific, discussing the fate of Lions’ rookie kicker Nate Freese. Sunday, Freese had another rough day, whiffing on a pair of 49 yard attempts. In total, he’s a woeful 2-5 on the season, with both makes from a comfortable distance.
Life post Jason Hanson has gotten downright rough for Detroit. Last season, veteran David Akers struggled, leading to the Lions taking Freese in the seventh round last May. Though he was unimpressive in camp, he beat out Giorgio Tavecchio for kicking duties, and was thought to be Detroit’s kicker of the future.
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Now, Freese can’t hit a long field goal in the clutch. These are delacate times for both the Lions and their kicker. As a rookie, it’s unfair to write the book on Freese’s entire career after two weeks and three misses, but the Lions also might not be in a position to wait for the youngster to turn things around.
After all, the time for winning, as Caldwell has said, is now.
As a rookie, it’s unfair to write the book on Freese’s entire career after two weeks and three misses, but the Lions also might not be in a position to wait for the youngster to turn things around.
If that’s truly the case, Detroit has a decision to make. Freese may not have lost Sunday’s game on his own, but if he connects on his field goals and provides the Lions with an early lead, that could have changed the game. At this point, Detroit can either stick with Freese and attempt to nurture him, or make a quick decision on his future, cut him and sign a veteran.
Either way, the coaches may have to make that decision soon, stick with it and also be prepared to live with the consequences. If Freese rebounds and catches on somewhere else, it would be a significant black eye. If he continues to miss key field goals and cost the team wins, however, Detroit’s competitiveness will be damaged in the short term.
The suggestion here is one more week, since a few big kicks against a division rival could provide confidence. If Freese continues to flub against the Green Bay Packers indoors, Detroit should make a move. If not, they could see where it goes.
Decisions like this are why coaches are paid handsomely, and are also judged accordingly. Caldwell is facing down his first major test three weeks into his tenure.