The worst kicker in franchise history
The problems that the 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had with their kicking game cost them two, possibly three games and saw the end of Martin "FUAT" Gramatica in the NFL. But 21 years earlier, the Buccaneers had problems that transcended the awful and ended up in the farcical as John McKay's 2-14 team finished their year in Detroit.
In 1982, the youthful Bill Capece had won two straight games at Tampa Stadium and had taken The Cardiac Kids into the expanded post-season tournament. But a year on, and Capece's problems cost the Bucs games against Minnesota and Green Bay and led John McKay to famously announce that "Capece was kaput" after a Monday night debacle against the Packers. Capece blamed his problems on having three different holders, Blair Kiel, Bob Hewko and Andre Tyler, but 10 out of 23 successful kicks would not even get you a job in NFL Europe.
After the Monday night meltdown, free agent kicker Dave Warnke (pronounced Warn-key), called the Bucs. A quick flight to Tampa and impromptu try-out later, and the Bucs had signed Warnke for their season finale in Detroit. Rumour has it that Warnke made a 53-yard fieldgoal in front of John McKay and the old ball coach just said "he'll do, sign him".
Warnke had been in the Lions' training camp in 1983 and had even made a 39-yard fieldgoal in pre-season but had lost out to future NFL veteran (and even future Buc) Eddie Murray. He had played at Division III Augsburg college and was the first bare-footed kicker the Bucs had ever had.
John McKay had stated his intentions to junk the kicking game irrespective of signing Warnke, and early in the game, proved to be true to his word when the Bucs faced 4th and inches at the Lion' 11-yard line early in the game. But Jack Thompson was stopped on a quarterback sneak and Warnke's first fieldgoal attempt would have to wait a little longer.
The Bucs took an early lead in the game and Warnke's extra point was unspectacular enough in that it made it through. His kickoffs had been pretty woeful, but nothing could prepare Buc fans, players and coaches alike for what was about to transpire in the second quarter.
Tampa had taken a 13-10 lead on a 20-yard TD pass from Thompson to Kevin House, but Warnke's extra point came closer to hitting the endzone corner pylon than anywhere near the uprights. And when the Bucs failed on 3rd and 8 from the Lion 12-yard line in the third quarter, McKay shrugged his shoulders and gave his kicker another chance.
This one was even worse as it not only once again came close to the pylon, but did not even get airborne. It was more like a penalty kick aimed into the corner than a fieldgoal attempt. "That's low and outside, ball four" came the commentary from Dick Vermeil in the booth.
|Hubert Mizell, The St.Petersburg Times|
Did you watch it on TV? Let's think about it. Has there ever been a more hopeless placekicker in the 63 years of the National Football League? Darned if I can think of one. This guy wore no shoe, had no accuracy, had no distance and had no chance. Now, after one game as a pro, he has no job.
John McKay had seen far too much of brother Warnke by the time Tampa Bay scored its last touchdown with 1:17 left. Pussyfoot was through. Before sending him back out there, McKay would've kicked it himself. Luckily, he had George Yarno.
Even after it was over, Warnke swore he used to kick like magic for some Minnesota college. I think they call his school Augsburg. Me? I don't believe him. Against the Lions, Pussyfoot tried a 29-yard field
goal that fell 22 yards short. Think about that. And he missed an extra point. Pussyfoot was pitiful.
Warnke became so laughable with his placements that Tampa Bay twice passed up obvious field goals to try for it on fourth down. To boot, on his kickoffs Pussyfoot had all the power of a Truman Capote right hook with pokes that strained to reach the opposing 20 yard line.
The Lions took a 23-13 lead to clinch the game but Thompson led the Bucs downfield one last time and hit Gerald Carter with a 12-yard scoring pass with 1:17 remaining. Warnke - not a chance. He was left on the sideline as McKay allowed OL George Yarno, 6-5 and 280 pounds, to attempt the kick. Left-footed, toe-on and straight through the uprights to mass celebrations from his fellow linemen.
Warnke's final NFL moment came on the ensuing onside kick which was as appalling as his fieldgoal kicking. With all the Buc players lined up left for the expected scramble, he managed to kick it 25 yards straight downfield to a surprised Robb Rubick and the Lions ran out the clock to end a miserable season for Buccaneer fans.
Warnke never got another shot in the NFL and understandably so. He and Yarno remain two of the four Buc players who have scored a single point (Ray Criswell and Chris Mohr) being the others. But this game and the wretched Warnke, will forever keep their place in Buccaneer franchise history but for all the wrong reasons.
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