After a week 2 that saw missed field goals and extra points from across the league, some kickers lost their jobs and were replaced. This proved that no players’ job is safe, even the kicker. On the Cincinnati Bengals however, that is quite the opposite. Here is the man, the myth, the legend.
Week 2 of the 2018 NFL season was not one to remember if you are a kicker. More than a few of the teams blew opportunities for extra points or field goals in games which led to last second losses for some. The Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings are two of those teams that had opportunities to win but were just short because of special teams play. Both teams even cut their kickers and signed new ones before week 3. Being an NFL kicker may seem like a walk in the park to most, but deep down it’s pretty difficult to hit it every time.
The Bengals have been blessed with some good kickers over the years, and not so good ones. In the same breath of great kickers, arguably the best kicker in terms of stats was Shayne Graham. While Jim Breech had more attempts and ultimately makes, Graham had a higher percentage in field goals made/attempted (86.8%) and extra points made/attempted (98.8%) over seven seasons. When Mike Nugent struggled mightily for the Bengals, the team turned to Randy Bullock in the later half of last season. Now in his second full season with the Bengals, Bullock has been locked in on special teams.
An Aggie Through and Through
Growing up in Texas, Bullock was always known to be a kicker. Ranked in the top 5 of high school kickers in the country, Bullock ultimately went to Texas A&M to be an Aggie. In college station, Bullock became highly decorated on special teams, ending in being the best college kicker in the country and a first team All-American. Among the many records Bullock holds at Texas A&M, including consecutive extra points and most extra points, his most important might be that he is the schools’ all-time scoring leader with 365 career points in 46 games. He loved the school so much, he even returned to earn his degree petroleum engineering degree as well.
Drafted to the Home Team
In 2012, Bullock was selected in the fifth round by the Houston Texans. Staying home and being in the NFL was like a dream come true. Oddly enough for Bengals’ fans, Bullock had to compete with Graham for the starting role (which now he is chasing the records of with the Bengals). Over four total seasons with the Texans, Bullock battled injuries and consistently was a go-to guy with extra points and field goals. One shining moment in particular is when he set a franchise record for most field goals in a game with six against the Baltimore Ravens. When he was ultimately released in 2015, Bullock was in the NFL top 10 for field goal percentage and touchback percentage. Known for going the distance, Bullock also averaged around 20% from field goals of 50 yards and more.
Beginnings of a Journeyman
Following his release from the Texans, Bullock bounced around from the New York Jets, the New York Giants, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the Jets and Steelers, Bullock was only needed in relief of their starting kickers while they were injured. For the Giants he wasn’t even there a month since their kicker was on a one game suspension. Each destination Bullock went to, his consistency never changed. Sure, he missed some kicks but honestly who doesn’t? Even after coming in clutch for each team he was on, he was still released by each one. Little did he know a team not far from Pittsburgh would be in need of his services.
Bullock a Bengal
Following the course of a 2016 season which saw fans and coaches alike upset with the struggles of then-kicker Mike Nugent, the Bengals made a late season move and claimed Bullock off waivers. In the start of a new era for the special teams, optimism was high going in to face the Texans, Bullocks’ old team. With time winding down in a crucial kick, Bullock missed a potential 43 yard field goal to seal a playoff spot for his former team. The new scapegoat to pin the Bengals lost season, fans had flashes and comparisons to the recently cut Nugent. While that wasn’t a great impression, ownership signed Bullock in 2017 to a two year extension, but also drafted a kicker to compete with him, Jake Elliott.
The Bengals had complete faith in Bullock, as Elliott was cut going into the 2017 season. As we all know, Elliott went on to win a Superbowl ring with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bullock impressed and redeemed himself from 2016 with a strong 2017 season. Last year Bullock was 18 of 20 on field goals made and 31 of 33 on extra points made totaling over 90%. Going into 2018 Bullock had a competitor in Jon Brown throughout training camp even though it was never deemed a competition. Bullock was named the starter as expected, and has picked up right where he left off. Heading into Sunday, Bullock is 4 for 4 on field goals made (longest is 42 yards) and 8 for 8 on extra points.
Unusual Mid-Season Contract Extension
As a result of a strong 2017 campaign and a great start to 2018, the Bengals did the unusual and signed Bullock to another two year extension keeping him here till 2020. Now earning over $2 million in the new deal, Bullock was on pace to be a free agent during 2019. This was a smart move by the Bengals, especially with their past woes at kicker. While Graham’s franchise percentages and Breechs’ franchise numbers are far off, Bullock is consistent enough and young enough (28 years old) to eventually reach them. It is refreshing to know that in crucial situations, the Bengals have a reliable kicker when they seem hard to come by, especially since field goals and extra points are most times the difference in a win or loss. Bullock has found a home here in Cincinnati.
The Bengals try to start the season 3-0 as they head to Carolina to face the Panthers. Game will be at 1:00 pm EST on CBS.