NFL 2011

Why You Have To Kick to Devin Hester

The stadium scene.
Oct. 17 2011 5:30 PM

NFL 2011


Why you have to kick to Devin Hester.

The Chicago Bears' Devin Hester leaves a Vikings pursuer—and everyone else—in his dust on a kick return Sunday

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

I have a theory that people like calling for coaches' heads because they can picture themselves doing the job, just as it's easy for them to picture themselves as announcers or studio analysts. One of the main reasons people like it when we goof on Sports Illustrated’s Peter King is because Peter is doing a job that many of us feel we could do and ought to be doing. 

Speaking of Peter, I have pick on him again for this sentence:

I think I have graduated from the Tony Dungy School of Never Kick to Devin Hester.

This is an annoying sentence, not only because King uses it to name-drop Tony Dungy for the zillionth time, but also because King had Vikings punter Chris Kluwe do a guest turn in his column just last year to explain why it's hard to avoid kicking to the other team's returner:

You have two seconds to catch the snap, take a proper line, position your drop, and then make the ball hit a precise spot 48 yards down the field. Quarterbacks practice like this throwing the ball into a trash can. You have to use your foot. Sound easy? According to many fans and pundits, yes. They would have you believe that punting the football out of bounds, while still maintaining a halfway decent average, is so easy that any one of them could do it given the opportunity.

Again, Kluwe wrote this right in King's freakin' column, and a year later King has forgotten about it entirely and is back to saying, "Hey, just kick it away from Devin Hester!"

Well, where are you supposed to kick it? On punts, you have to kick it out of bounds, which always carries the risk of surrendering good field position if the punt isn't angled jusssst so (and, as Kluwe noted, that's without even accounting for the wind). On kickoffs, you can’t kick it out of bounds, lest you incur a huge penalty. That leaves you with the dreaded squib kick, which again results in crummy field position and does nothing to prevent a team like the Bears from pitching the ball back to Hester so he can go do what Devin Hester does. (Against the Vikings on Sunday night, he scored on a career-best 98-yard kickoff return.)

That's part of what makes Hester such an incredible weapon. You can’t kick it away from him. There's no magical way to advance the kick 50 yards without it touching his hands. Either you roll the dice and you hope your men can, you know, cover, or you consistently sacrifice large chunks of field position. Maybe it's worth it to let Hester have his one big return a game, instead of kicking a 30-yard punt out of bounds every time and giving up two dozen yards on every change of possession. All I know is, if you're one of those people saying, "Don't kick it to Devin Hester!" you haven't considered what that supposedly bulletproof formula actually entails.


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Politico Wonders Why Gabby Giffords Is So “Ruthless” on Gun Control

Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?