It was a reach, but it wasn’t out of his range

Times Staff Writer

A couple of days before he lost his job as coach of the Oakland Raiders, Lane Kiffin tried something wild. He let the first-half clock wind down to :01 against San Diego, called a timeout, and let Sebastian Janikowski attempt a 76-yard field goal.

That’s 13 yards longer than the NFL record.

Although the kick fell far short, the try wasn’t a complete joke. After all, Janikowski had tried a 64-yarder last season that hit midway up an upright before bouncing wide. It had plenty of distance to spare, and it was in the same direction in McAfee Coliseum as last Sunday’s try.

But 76 yards? What was Kiffin thinking?

“It’s a very low percentage, obviously,” said Kiffin, who was on his way out as coach anyway. “We took a shot at it and felt great about the coverage unit and really felt that nothing negative was going to happen because of the way that we had practiced that situation.”


So, in essence, the attempt was a punt with a potentially historic payoff that didn’t happen. Debate the strategy if you will -- wasn’t there enough time to move 20 yards closer? -- but know this: Janikowski has the leg to kick that far.

“If the 63-yarder goes down, it will be Janikowski who does it,” said former NFL kicker Michael Husted, who spent part of his career with the Raiders.

It’s all about opportunity and execution. Janikowski has made kicks of 73 or 74 yards in practice, but it’s not as if those chances are going to arise much in actual games. When he was playing for Tampa Bay, Husted kicked a 70-yarder in practice, and that was through uprights that were half the width of the typical 18-foot 6-inch ones.

The Buccaneers called that set of skinny uprights “Iggy bars,” in honor of former kicker Donald Igwebuike, who trained with them to refine his aim. From 70 yards away, Husted said, the gap was so narrow that it looked as if the uprights were touching.

On a typical field-goal attempt, the ball is spotted seven to eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. A question that comes up often is, why not snap the ball back farther so the kicker can generate more power with a longer run-up.

There are several problems with that -- perhaps the biggest one being that defenders coming from the edges would have almost a straight shot at blocking the kick.


And when a few kicks get blocked, somebody’s getting the boot.