A rookie NFL kicker struggling to find immediate consistency isn’t a sexy storyline. When said kicker was taken by a team that traded up to take him in the second round, it’s much more compelling. Enter Roberto Aguayo, who was set up to fail.
And fail he did, going 22-of-31 on field goal attempts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016, with a few missed PATs to boot. His brief and high-profile erraticism forced Bucs general manager Jason Licht to cut bait and admit defeat.
Aguayo, once the picture of reliability, is the face of uncertainty. The Chicago Bears decided to take a chance on the 23-year-old and are praying he regains the form shown at Florida State. It’s not a cheap gamble as they must pony up $428,000 in guaranteed money this year.
If I were a betting man, I’d be on the side of this rebuilding effort becoming a great success. It’s easy to believe a change in scenery and a change in conversation could be just what the doctor ordered for Aguayo.
From the very beginning, he was a sideshow. He undoubtably enjoyed going far too early in the draft as would any player. But he didn’t exactly ask to be judged by a different standard than any other young kicker coming into the league.
The inherent pressure of backing up his 59th overall selection was obvious. Kickers, of course, are paid to navigate both physical and mental challenges. Their specialized skill requires great cerebral soundness. Aguayo assuredly bears most of the responsibility for his failure.
But few, if any, of his colleagues have had third-party observers openly rooting for them to miss wide right, left, and short in the interest of seeing egg caked on the faces of a front office. Taking out any emotion, it is a good story to watch a common fantasy football drafting mistake play out on an actual Sunday gridiron.
Aguayo had an even shorter leash and no time to find his sea legs. His practice misfires were chronicled and fretted over. Once he showed the first signs of cracking, he was jumped on like a wounded animal. Placekickers also bleed.
Comparing what Aguayo does to what a quarterback or offensive lineman does is an apple and orange exercise. But think about if a second-round position player had only 65 plays to prove himself. Think about how small of a sample size that is. If you’re willing to go even further down the line, imagine a baseball prospect being written off after 65 at-bats.
Aguayo was operating in the main ring of a circus, put on a pedestal whether he liked it or not and asked to perform with no net. The potential pitfalls were easy to predict.
It’s hard not to see his disastrous tenure as a very human thing and feel some compassion. An optimist has cause to believe Tampa Bay could be a blip on the radar some day. A realist realizes a lot of Aguayo’s reputation has already been baked, fair or other wise.