For the first five years of his career, Harrison Butker was one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, but this season the Chiefs kicker has been struggling and one former player has a theory on why that's happening.
Former Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt is pinning the blame for Kansas City's kicking issues on current punter Tommy Townsend, who also serves as the holder for Butker. After watching Butker miss both a field goal and an extra point during a 30-24 overtime win against Houston in Week 15, Colquitt took to Twitter to defend his former teammate after someone wrote that the kicking position is becoming a problem for Kansas City.
"Watch the holds and try saying that again," Colquitt wrote. "On the extra point the laces on facing the sidelines…[Townsend has] screwed him all year."
Basically, Colquitt is saying that Townsend isn't getting the laces where they need to be when he puts the hold down.
"If you look back at the holds on the extra point, the laces are facing the sidelines and on the missed 51-yarder, [Townsend] pulled the ball to him at the last second and forced the ball to go to the right -- he's been missing the spot all year," Colquitt wrote.
Ideally, the laces should be facing outward, but if that's not possible due to a bad snap or a bobbled hold, a holder just needs to make sure two things DON'T happen: You can't have the laces in, you can't still be spinning the ball when the kicker makes contact with it and you shouldn't move the ball once it's in its spot.
Colquitt served as Butker's holder for three years and during those three seasons, Butker hit 89.7% of his field goals on average. This year, Butker is hitting just 76.2% of his kicks (16 of 21), which ranks 30th in the NFL for any kicker who has attempted 15 or more field goals. Butker is also hitting just 90.3% of his extra points, which ranks 27th in the NFL for any kicker who has 15 or more attempts.
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Butker did miss four games earlier this season due to an ankle injury, so it's possible that has had an impact on him, but even when he was out, the Chiefs still struggled with their kicking. During his four-game absence, the Chiefs used two kickers -- Matthew Wright and Matt Ammendola -- and those kickers combined to hit 75% of their field goals. The only constant between the three kickers has been Townsend.
The Chiefs punter has been Butker's holder for three years and during his first season on the job back in 2020, Butker finished the season with a career-low extra point percentage (88.9%). During Colquitt's three seasons as holder, Butker never finished below 93.8%.
Although Colquitt is insistent that Townsend is the one to blame for Kansas City's kicking woes, Butker isn't buying it. The Chiefs kicker said this week that Townsend and long snapper James Winchester have been doing a great job this season.
"James and Tommy do a great job, and I've got to finish it and get the ball through the uprights," Butker said, via Arrowhead Pride. "I've been happy with all the effort and all the work those guys have been putting in. At the end of the day? If the ball's on the ground, it's got to go through."
That being said, Butker did seem to concede that the holds haven't been perfect, but he made his point by saying that he needs to get better at being ready to kick the ball no matter how the hold looks.
"One thing I've worked on the past couple of years is just looking right under the ball so I'm not noticing the spinning laces -- if there are any spinning laces -- because I can't control that," Butker said. "And I like to think that no matter where the laces are, I should still be able to hit a straight ball."
Butker also added he's actually been working on getting used to the way Townsend spins the ball.
"That's one thing Tommy and I have been working on throughout our time together: Just some drills where Tommy is putting the balls down and he's spinning it," Butker said. "So I have to get better at just kicking the ball starting at basically the ground below the ball so that I'm not even noticing a spinning ball."
The kicking struggles might be partially Townsend's fault, but Butker would never say that and that's because the Chiefs kicker firmly believes that in the end, if the football is placed down, then it's on him to put it through the uprights.
"I think a lot of times kickers maybe give too much credit to balls where the laces are off -- or the lean or whatever it may be," Butker. "I just take the approach of, 'I can do better. I can fix that.' I should be able to hit any ball through the uprights."
Two of Butker's biggest misses this year came in two of Kansas City's biggest games: A 27-24 loss to Cincinnati and a 24-20 loss to Buffalo. If Colquitt is right about all of this, then the Chiefs' kicking game will definitely be something to keep your eye on come playoff time.