Jake Elliott was selected to be the team’s long-term replacement for Mike Nugent, but after an imperfect training camp and preseason, Elliott was waived and Randy Bullock was crowned as the winner of a competition that should’ve never existed in the first place.
Cincinnati seems like they don’t want to go down that path again.
Zac Taylor wasn’t around for the Elliott debacle. The same can’t be said for special teams coordinator and current assistant head coach Darrin Simmons. After Evan McPherson became the first kicker to be drafted this year, four picks ahead of where Elliott was taken, Simmons made it clear that the job is McPherson’s to lose, and he doesn’t expect him to lose it.
He wouldn’t commit on Saturday to there being absolutely no competition between McPherson and incumbent kicker Austin Siebert, but Simmons did say he “fully expects” McPherson to make the team and be out on the field for Week 1.
Darrin Simmons says he fully expects McPherson to be the starting kicker on opening day.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) May 1, 2021
Simmons said they identified teams in the fifth round who could’ve targeted McPherson and didn’t want to wait and see if the Fort Payne, Alabama native made it to their sixth-round pick.. The Bengals wouldn’t have pulled the trigger when they did if they didn’t believe McPherson will be better for them than Seibert, who was six for eight last season after taking over for Randy Bullock.
That belief has to override whatever happens in July and August. It’s entirely possible that McPherson isn’t perfect out of the gate, just like Elliott wasn’t perfect. Kicker is one of last positions you can tolerate too much imperfection, but is it better than punting on another fifth-round investment before they could even get to their first season?
McPherson was widely regarded as the 2021 draft’s best kicker, and the Bengals made an investment in him reflecting that evaluation. Regardless of how well Siebert fares while still on the roster, the Bengals can’t repeat the same mistake again.