If there is one position that’s been a bugaboo for the Buccaneers over the last few seasons, it’s kicker. The organization seemed unable to find any consistency in that very important and often overlooked job. Names such as Kyle Brindza, Cairo Santos, Matt Gay, Chandler Catanzaro, and, of course, the inexplicable second-round pick, Roberto Aguayo, have been unable to perform when dressed for Tampa Bay. Even Nick Folk, who has had a fine career with the Cowboys, Jets and Patriots (279-for-339, or 82.3%, on career field goal attempts for those teams over a 13-year career) could not function in his one season with the Bucs (6-for-11, 54.55%, in 2017).
So when the team called Ryan Succop a few days before the 2020 season began in an attempt to add consistency and a veteran presence to their kicking game, Succop should have run for the hills. Raymond James Stadium has become a boneyard for those at his craft.
Only Succop was in no position to decline. After four strong years with the Titans, Succop had knee surgery following the 2018 season, was limited and inconsistent in 2019, and was released last spring. The 2020 season was about to begin in September and Succop was still without a job. The Bucs? You take what you can get.
On Sunday, he’ll be their kicker in Super Bowl LV.
"It's been an amazing year," he said. "I'm very blessed to be here, obviously. Some of things I went through last year in Tennessee were really difficult. There was certainly some adversity. Any time you try to come back from an injury and you don't come back the way that you want to, it can be frustrating. Probably one of the cool things of that is that, often times in my life or in football, when you go through some adversity a lot of times you grow as a person."
Gay was penciled in as their kicker for 2020. You may remember him as the kicker who missed two extra points (one of them blocked) and a 34-yard field goal attempt at the buzzer that gave the Giants a 32-31 victory in 2019 in Daniel Jones’ first NFL start. Clearly, though, they wanted more security. Especially since they were all on the season with Tom Brady as their quarterback.
With Succop, they got it. He made 28 of his 31 field goal attempts, a success rate of 90.3% that ranks as the second-best of his 12 NFL seasons and the second-best ever by a Buccaneers kicker. At one point from Weeks 4 through 15 he made 21 in a row, nearly breaking another Tampa Bay record. In the playoffs he is 8 of 8 so far.
"He's a true professional," special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. "You can't ask for more."
Well, there may be something more on Sunday. Brady has played in nine previous Super Bowls and they have a habit of coming down to plays late in the game. If this one rests on Succop’s leg, he said he’ll be ready.
"It's a tremendous honor to play in the Super Bowl," Succop said, adding that doing so against the Kansas City team that drafted him in 2009. "That's something that you dream about ever since you start playing football . . . After 12 years this is my first time getting to play in the big game and that's something I feel very blessed to be able to do."