Make some, miss some, win some, lose some; that’s life as a professional field goal kicker, unless and until your time is up.
Montreal kicker David Côté, who missed a game-ending, 21-yard gimme Thursday night in Toronto, sending his Alouettes to a shocking 20-19 defeat at the hands of the Argonauts, should not be looking over his shoulder just yet. He’s only 25, a second-year Canadian Football Leaguer coming off a decent 2021 campaign that saw him make 32-of-39, an 82.1% success rate. He’s also a homegrown talent, and the Als should be showing nothing but support for this kid.
Just as certainly, there is no excuse for missing that chip shot, which he pulled to the left. It shouldn’t happen from there, and it doesn’t very often. According to Derek Taylor, the play-by-play voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and quite a stats nerd, from 2005 through 2021 the success rate for CFL field goal attempts between 21 and 25 yards was 94%. The only ranges with higher rates, according to Taylor, are eight to 15 yards and 16 to 20 yards, both at 98%.
But Thursday was not a stellar night for kickers. In fact, the home team would have enjoyed more of a cushion on the scoreboard as the clock wound down had their own man, Boris Bede, not missed from 26 and 45 yards in the second half.
That’s cold comfort for Côté, whose only real solace will come from a chance to redeem himself when the Als host Saskatchewan on June 23, assuming he’ll be in the lineup. In the meantime, the brotherhood has his back. In a league as small as the CFL, kickers stay in touch on the daily, in good times and bad, because but for the grace of the man upstairs.
“I messaged David this morning just because we’ve all been there, right,” said Elks kicker Sergio Castillo, a 31-year-old who has also played in the National Football League and with three other CFL teams. “It’s a kick that we should all make. And I recall very well my fourth or fifth game with the New York Jets, I missed a chip shot from 29 yards and you’re just in shock. You can’t believe it, right. Because No. 1, you’ve let the team down and No. 2, if there’s a gimme, it should be those short ones.”
If you’re a kicker, you should be built for the spotlight. The position offers nowhere to hide, unless the holder screws up, so embrace the pressure. Castillo said he always wants the outcome of the game on his foot.
“I want it to come down to a game-winning field goal, I don’t care if it’s short or far. I want to be in that situation. Those are the moments, I think, you should live for as a kicker. I want that. It’s the biggest moment for a kicker. All the kicks are big but if you can come up with a game-winner at the end …”
But if you crave the chance to be a hero, you have to accept the notion that at times you will be fitted for goat horns. Nobody goes 100% in a season or a career.
“At the end of the day, we’re human beings and we all mess up,” said Castillo. “That’s why I messaged him this morning, because I’ve been in that situation and I know it’s going to be tough for him. But the beauty of this sport is, for the most part, you get another opportunity, right. So that’s all you can ask for.
“The fact that he’s going through this, we all have our own battles that we have to go through as athletes. This is what he has to go through. I can imagine he can’t wait for the next game already, to redeem himself. He was having a good game, a long of 43, and last year he did really well as a rookie. So for me, when he was up, ‘that’s game, he’s going to make it.’
“Unfortunately he didn’t. That’s part of the game. That’s what makes the sport beautiful. There’s no automatic.”
Milliseconds after Côté pulled it left, the crowd and the Argos went nuts and a TSN camera caught Als coach Khari Jones in a moment of sheer disbelief, his mouth rounded into the word ‘no.’ Because it just couldn’t be true.
Alas, it was indeed a chip shot to the heart for an Alouettes team that was also beaten 30-27 in week one when Calgary kicker Rene Paredes made a 38-yarder with just 45 seconds left.