The Detroit Lions continue to show kicker spot is irrelevant to them

The Detroit Lions are keeping a kicker carousel rolling right along, showing they don't really care who occupies the job.
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Essentially, with uniquely eloquent words, Dan Campbell promised an aggressive mindset when he was announced as Detroit Lions' head coach in January of 2021. He has backed that up with three of the top eight seasons in fourth down attempts in league history.

Signing Matt Prater to the kind of free agent deal he would command when a rebuild started didn't really make sense. But the Lions went through a few kickers before the 2021 season even started, and the carousel at the position has rarely stopped. Even last year, Riley Patterson was re-acquired, Michael Badgley was cut, Badgley was eventually brought back on the practice squad and Badgley eventually beat out Patterson to take the job back.

Badgley's distance limitations, especially outdoors, appeared to be a factor in the NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers. Campbell's controversial fourth down aggressiveness likely would have happened anyway, but having a kicker who was not an option from those distances shouldn't be discounted.

Right after re-signing Badgley this offseason, general manager Brad Holmes promised competition. That yielded signing an undrafted rookie in James Turner, who was then waived when the Lions signed UFL kicker Jake Bates. Before kicking for the Michigan Panthers in the just completed UFL season, Bates had not kicked a field goal in game since high school.

The Lions have rendered who their kicker is to be irrelevant

In a broad sense, most NFL fans will say "who cares?" about kickers. When the Lions were losing a bunch of games during the first season and half of Campbell's tenure, it didn't really matter who the kicker was or how his fourth down aggression impacted win probability.

But now, with the roster carrying few questions, spotlight gets shone on the kicker competition. By all accounts from reporters at OTAs, limited as what they see is, Turner had done better than Badgley-and he was cut to make room for Bates.

On 97.1 The Ticket's "Karsch and Anderson Show" earlier this week, they discussed the kicker situation in the frame of Campbell's aggressiveness and landed on the obvious.

John Maakaron and Christian Booher of echoed the same sentiment. Campbell's fourth down aggressiveness will not be greatly impacted by who the kicker is. Booher suggested Bates having longer range than Badgley might naturally factor into Campbell's process at times, but he did not stray too far from Campbell's general fourth down aggressiveness not changing.

Big games are often won and lost in slim margins (go for it or not on fourth down, kicks made or missed, etc.), and hindsight is always 20/20.

The core of who Campbell is as a coach immediately rendered who the Lions' kicker is to be unimportant. That has been backed up by the moves made (or not made) to render who occupies the spot irrelevant, even as the team has gotten good. Which isn't to say it's the wrong approach, at least until a big game is tilted by having a kicker the head coach lacks faith in.