Back in 1999, the Oakland Raiders missed the playoffs with a record of 8-8. Of those 8 losses, 4 were decided by three points or less.
Something had to be done.
So, with the 17th pick of 2000 NFL Draft, Al Davis pulled vintage Davis move. He drafted a kicker…in the first round. Not just any kicker, mind you. Sebastian Janikowski was the man tapped by Bobby Bowden to reverse the wide right trend that had haunted his Florida State Seminoles against their bitter rivals the University of Miami Hurricanes.
The sports world laughed that a team would use a first round pick on a kicker. Al Davis saw a weapon capable of making 8-8 seasons into 12-4 finishes.
Sure enough, the next season the Raiders went to the top of the AFC West. The Silver and Black won 12 games in the regular season before eventually coming up just short in the AFC title game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Now, nobody is going to argue that the man with the mega leg affectionately known as Seabass was the reason why the Raiders went from mediocre to masterful. But you had better believe that Al Davis got the last laugh once Janikowski started booming kicks that had footballs popping up on radars at local airports. 10 years later, Janikowski became the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, which is really saying something when you consider the long line of men who have proudly worn the Silver and Black and can now can be found in the halls of Canton.
As faithful Raider fans, we’ve seen Seabass drill 57-yard game winners as calmly as chipping in an extra point. We bore witness to perhaps the most amazing kick in NFL history, a 61-yard missile launched in the frigid cold of a Cleveland winter. We’ve even seen the ridiculous 76-yard misfire that Lane Kiffin so arrogantly attempted during his short tenure in the East Bay.
Unfortunately, we’ve also seen Jano miss about as horribly as Matt Millen on draft day.
There were times when he accomplished feats that seem mathematically impossible such as hitting the uprights twice in the same game.
However, what happened Sunday in Arizona is a whole new page in this disconcerting chapter of the Janikowsi error era.
Needing to drill a 32-yard field goal – which by Jano standards in like Tiger Woods sinking a 2-foot putt – Seabass held the hopes of an entire franchise and its faithful fan base in the laces of his kicking boot. After a week of turmoil surrounding the benching of Jason Campbell and rumors of coaching instability, Janikowski had the opportunity to give the Raiders a much needed win that would put the franchise one game up in the win column and potentially salvage Tom Cable’s job.
One kick, one horrible miss and with that the same snake bitten trials of the Oakland Raiders continued.
If in drafting Janikowski, Mr. Davis truly believed that he would be the difference in close games, he could never have imagined it would be like this.
An inexplicable miss. A week of practice for naught. A career of amazing talent mired with wildly inconsistent performance boiled down to one swing of the leg.
The season is far from over for the Raiders. Having signed the richest deal of any kicker in the history of the NFL means Janikowski’s career is far from done as well. But just how this kick will affect the season, the future of the coaching staff and the prospects of getting out of the 11-loss hell this franchise has been mired in for 7 long years is unknown. Which is about what best sums up the nature of the beast that is Sebastian Janikowski – unknown.
Perhaps Jano will one day boot a ball though the uprights that delivers the Raiders a 4th Lombardi trophy. Until that happens, what he did in Arizona will be the constant reminder of just who Sebass is in the game of football. A man with talent so immense that some of greatest minds in the history of game have tapped him to be their savior, yet a collection of misses so heinous it makes you wonder why he hasn’t yet changed his last name to Shankopotamus.