It was as if the fans’ grumbling and the media’s questions started just as the ball sailed past the wrong side of the goal post.
Washington Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham missed his first field goal attempt of this exhibition season - the same result he had with his final try of the 2007 campaign. Almost immediately, fans rushed to Internet message boards to opine for another kicker and after one of the team’s next practices, reporters quizzed coach Jim Zorn on why there wasn’t another kicker in camp to compete with Suisham.
“The longer I’ve been around, I think that is just part of the gig,” Suisham said. “I find that I’m either told that I am better than I am or worse than I am. My job is to come out here and do the very best job I can.”
Suisham had a successful year in 2007 - his first full season as a team’s kicker in the NFL. His 29 field goals tied for fifth in the league, and his kickoffs contributed to a top-ranked coverage unit.
But the one kick many people remember from last season is the 30-yard try he missed in the fourth quarter at Seattle in the team’s 35-14 playoff loss.
It didn’t help matters when he pushed his only attempt of the Redskins’ preseason opener - a 39-yarder - wide right against Indianapolis. Still, Zorn’s confidence in him didn’t waver, and Suisham had little trouble nailing a 46-yard attempt against Buffalo on Aug. 7.
“That is what I think some people have a hard time understanding - I work hard not to miss,” Suisham said. “It is an unfortunate part of my job, and I do everything I can to try and prevent it, but like you saw in the game, it happens. I try to learn what I can and take what I can from it, but I wasn’t hanging my head all week because I missed a field goal and I am not holding my head high [this week] like I am the greatest kicker in the world because I made one. That’s my job.”
During this offseason Suisham earned a dose of Internet celebrity because of a promotional bit with a local television station. The doctored video of him “making” a 110-yard field goal was a made-for-YouTube hit, and it’s something that people from Andover, Maine, to Zamora, Calif., can associate with Suisham.
“Channel 9 asked me to come out and help them with a promo, and that is what it turned into,” Suisham said. “I had no idea it would - well, I never really thought it would be on the Internet. It has been pretty surprising how it has blown up. The funniest part is the people I’ve had a relationship with - whether I played football with them or known them from wherever - when it is them asking me about it. I guess I should take it as a compliment that they think I could make a 110-yard field goal. It is kind of silly, but I appreciate all of those people who did believe it.”
As for the farthest attempt he has made without cinematography tricks, he has hit one from 70 yards. Now that was without a snap and hold, with a clean ball and the wind at his back.
But what about game conditions - what is the true limit of his range?
“Just in general, I think 60 yards is pretty feasible,” he said.
Suisham and the Redskins play Saturday night against the Jets at Giants Stadium - the site of his five-field goal day last season that included an overtime winner. In the immediate future, Suisham will continue to work on his consistency and blot out criticisms of his work.
And Zorn will be content with his kicker and happy to have the extra roster spot for another position.
“I think the only reason we would have brought in a kicker this year - because I think [Suisham] is the guy we want - is we were overkicking him and wanted to give him a rest,” Zorn said.