2020 marked the ninth consecutive season in which Tampa Bay rolled out a new starting kicker for Week 1, with their curse being well-documented and even highlighted by a move to trade up in the second round to draft Roberto Aguayo with the 59th overall pick in the 2016 season. But over the years the Bucs just couldn’t get it right. Names like Chandler Catanzaro and Cairo Santos and Patrick Murray and Nick Folk and Kyle Brindza danced in the heads of Bucs fans across the world, almost adding insult to the injury that was a 13-year playoff drought for the losing-est franchise in NFL history.
But through trial and error, two kickers drafted under general manager Jason Licht, and even a call back to a previous kicker in Connor Barth, the Bucs finally struck gold by way of veteran kicker Ryan Succop.
Head coach Bruce Arians has made it clear throughout his time in Tampa Bay what he wants from his kickers. Make the automatic ones, or those under 45-47 yards. That’s the focus, with everything beyond that as a bonus that Succop also gave the Bucs all season long.
“I’m looking for consistency on the ‘gimmes’,” Arians said back in August. “We can’t miss extra points, we can’t give away easy points. Kicks inside the 30-yard line should be automatic. If you can make a 56-yarder, that’s great, but when we drive the ball down to the 10 and miss a field goal, there’s nothing that tears a team more apart on offense than, ‘Hey, we just took the ball down the field and we didn’t get any points.’ So, the ‘gimmes’ – who’s the most consistent? If you can do that and still kick 56, 57, now you’re All-Pro.”
Succop was a perfect 20/20 on kicks shorter than 40 yards in the regular season, 1/2 from beyond 50 yards and additionally set franchise records for extra points converted and extra points attempted with 52 and 57, respectively, good for a 91.2 percent conversion rate that would have finished even higher if not for two blocked extra points due to poor protection.
In 2020, Succop ranked sixth in the NFL with a franchise record of 136 total points scored, landing just eight points behind kickers Daniel Carlson, Younghoe Koo and Jason Sanders for the league lead. The 12-year veteran got there in spectacular fashion as well, converting 28 of his 31 field goal attempts for a field goal percentage of 90.3 – with one of those attempts being blocked in Week 1 – giving Succop the second-most accurate kicking season in Bucs history, trailing just Connor Barth’s mark pf 92.9 in 2011.
For perspective, Bucs’ legend Martin Gramatica – who remains the highest-scoring player in franchise history – finished his nearly six-season run with the Bucs at a 76.5 percent clip and never converted a single-season rate higher than 84.4 percent, despite eclipsing the 80 percent mark in three of those seasons.
In the postseason Succop remained stellar, converting 12 of 13 extra point attempts and finishing a perfect 9/9 on field goals, including a season-long 52-yard field goal against the Chiefs to close out the scoring in Super Bowl LV.
So to say Succop had a good season would be an understatement, and to say he broke the Bucs’ curse of the kicker would be a fact. In one of the more unique seasons in NFL history that culminated in the Bucs’ second Super Bowl victory in their 44-year history, there was a lot of spotlight to go around from the front office to Arians to Tom Brady and all the way down their star-studded roster. But Succop, while joyfully flying under the national radar, played his own special part in changing the Bucs’ losing culture.