Cleveland Browns placekicker Cade York was 12 seconds away on Saturday from calming nerves across all of Northeast Ohio.
After an early miss on an extra point that was nullified by a penalty, York was perfect on three extra points and a field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs. All he had to do was convert one final 43-yard field goal to erase a rocky preseason and set himself up for the start of the season in two weeks.
Unfortunately, the kick was blocked, all the positives from the day evaporated in the Kansas City humidity, and the pressure on York (and the Browns) to fix the issue hit the boiling point.
The external noise to do something about York’s inconsistency is as loud as it has been this summer, and it would be ridiculous to assume that the Browns are not studying every available option as Tuesday’s roster cutdown deadline looms on the horizon.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about the situation with York on Sunday and did not tip the team’s hand about what will happen (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I know we want to be able to finish there as a team, so it was disappointing. But it doesn’t change kind of our mentality that each one of our players is going to continue to work at this thing and get better.
“I think Cade is very talented, and you’re right, we’ve seen it in practice. Definitely, I’ve seen it at times in games. He wants to come through for the team. I know he’s disappointed in that preseason, but (a) young player, going to continue to work. That’s really what it is. But I’ll reiterate I think Cade is very, very talented.”
It is one thing to stick with a struggling player during the preseason and let him work through his issues - that’s what training camp and the preseason are for, after all - but it is another to go into a season with playoff aspirations with a player that you can’t rely on at the moment.
It might be a bit of a stretch to say that a team can lose the season in the next two days, but with three of their first four games coming against AFC North Division rivals, the Browns have to make the right decision about the kicking game.
If they truly believe that York can figure this out in the next two weeks, then they will roll with him to open the season. If not, then get ready for the team to go with the veteran retread model, which brings its own set of uncertainties.
If (when?) Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry decide to stick with York, the outside noise is only going to grow louder. And with two weeks until the season begins, there will be little that the team and York can do to quiet those voices.
A big roster decision is looming and it is one that will go a long way toward defining the upcoming season. No matter which way the Browns go with the situation at kicker, they better get it right, or else things could go very wrong, very fast once the calendar hits September 10.