The Bengals’ kicker position was quite volatile this season.
Through Week 14, Mike Nugent missed six extra points and another six field goals, actually going 23/29 in both categories. That’s not acceptable for an NFL kicker, and it took the Bengals far too long to recognize it.
The Bengals acknowledged there was an issue when they brought in free agent kickers for tryouts during the team's Week 9 bye week. Kicker Randy Bullock was among those who came to Cincinnati for the workout. That workout followed a Week 8 game for Cincinnati in which Nugent missed both a field goal and an extra point. That game, against the Redskins, ended with a tied score. But after the bye week workouts, the Bengals opted to stick with Nugent, the commodity they knew, opposed to an unknown free agent.
Following the bye, between Weeks 10-14, Nugent missed one field goal and five extra points. At that point and with the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck in Week 15, the Bengals were ready to move on. Many people thought it was because the Bengals knew they couldn't afford to have Nugent miss a single kick against such a hated division rival.
But it turns out, the Bengals had wanted to sign Bullock for three weeks, and those same Steelers got to him first when their kicker, Chris Boswell was injured and Pittsburgh needed a temporary replacement.
“Randy is someone who we identified early on who could replace Mike (Nugent) when we looked for a replacement,” Marvin Lewis said on Monday in a press conference. “We didn’t make the move one week, and Randy was unavailable for two weeks. Mike didn’t come out of it, and we made the move.”
In saying this, it seems Lewis is acknowledging the Bengals were going to sign Bullock before Week 13’s game against the Browns, but the Steelers got to him first and the Bengals had to wait until the Steelers waived him, following Week 14, to sign the kicker and part ways with Nugent.
Bullock ended up going 5/6 on field goals and 6/6 on extra points with the Bengals in the final three weeks of the season. Unfortunately, his one missed field goal was the most important field goal of any he kicked for the Bengals. It was a game-winning 43-yard attempt with time expiring against the Texans. Make it, the Bengals win. Miss it, as he did, and the Bengals lose. The missed field goal also handed the Texans, Bullock’s first NFL team, and the one that drafted him back in 2013, a ticket to the playoffs via the AFC South division title.
Lewis isn’t sure if Bullock is in the Bengals’ plans for next season, though, he does not believe Nugent is.
“I think we are up in the air right now,” Lewis said when asked if Bullock would return for 2017. “That’s what I told Randy. I know where we are. I know Randy has ability and talent, but yes, we will have a competition. We cannot go through what we went through this year.”
Lewis has that last part right, that’s for sure.