Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was awarded for being one of the best kickers of the decade last offseason when he became the highest paid kicker in football with a contract that ensured that the former first round draft pick would retire with the team that drafted him.
At the time the move seemed like a slightly risky no brainer, giving the franchise’s most consistent player a payday after punter Shane Lechler decided to move to the Houston Texans. Then Janikowski’s problems with missing kicks began right away, missing field goals Raiders fans normally expected the veteran to make in his sleep and on occasion indirectly costing the team wins.
Janikowski went 21-for-30 in 2013, arguably his worst season. A new holder in Marquette King was an excuse for awhile, but the highest paid kicker in football can’t miss close to one third of his field goal attempts regardless of resume or if he is a fan favorite or not.
After placing some of the blame on the rookie King to sideline reporters during his struggles in 2013, Janikowski has mentioned that he has been expectedly working with King and snapper Jon Condo over the offseason to ensure that the same growing pains in adjusting to a new holder don’t happen again this season.
“With Shane, we knew each other so well, that’s a trust issue right there,” Janikowski said to Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He knew if I’m pushing the ball, he would tilt the ball in the different direction. So now I’m working with Marquette, and it’s improving a lot.”
Janikowski told Ostler that it isn’t age that is slowing him down, insisting that the famous leg of his is still one of the most powerful in football history. A leg that has allowed head coaches to take some entertainingly long field goal attempts in Janikowski’s long career.
“I don’t think I’ve lost any distance,” he said. “The power has always been there. My final step is so powerful, I’ve always had the power, since high school. … I feel that I’m as strong as I was eight, 10 years ago.”
Janikowski needs to have a big season in 2014 to justify the large contract the Raiders have given him as more than a deserved contract for the longest serving Oakland Raider of the 00′s. A fan favorite, don’t expect the Black Hole to ever turn on Janikowski for good even if his accuracy issues, but when it comes to his career “SeaBass” needs a productive year to keep him amongst the best kickers in the game. A status he has held most of his career, the powerful Polish veteran is now trying to prove doubters wrong for the first time in ages. Based on his long successful career in Oakland, expect a better Janikowski in 2014 with more familiarity and much more motivation after his miss filled season.