To the surprise of many, the Oakland Raiders suddenly found themselves in a contract dispute with kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Only to subsequently place the 18-year vet on injured reserve after resolving said dispute.
Rather than sign a free agent after working out unsigned kickers Josh Lambo, Marshall Koehn, and Mike Nugent, general manager Reggie McKenzie elected to bring back Giorgio Tavecchio.
Tavecchio has made four consecutive preseason appearances for Oakland as well as stints with the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49er’s, and Green Bay Packers, but has been unable to land a spot on an official 53-man roster. Until now.
The signing from the surface appeared to be a head scratcher as the Raiders had brought in proven NFL talent, but McKenzie showed he prefers utilizing a left footed kicker.
Raiders punter Marquette King who also serves as the team’s holder on kicks has held for Janikowski (also a lefty) for four seasons now, and McKenzie didn’t want any ailments on special teams. Thus, Tavecchio was the man for the job.
Tavecchio was given a great opportunity to nail his first NFL field goal, and he did just that, drilling it from 20-yards out. But how would he fair from long distance, where Raider Nation is accustomed to Janikowski making a living?
Cool. Calm. Collected.
With Janikowski, head coach Jack Del Rio and the rest of his Raider teammates nervously waiting, The Italian Stallion drilled a 52-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Proving it wasn’t a fluke, Tavecchio again walked out with pure confidence blasting another 52-yard field goal through the uprights in the third quarter.
With the game at the mercy of the leg of Tavecchio, once again the Cal product would show he was ready for the big time moment sealing the victory for the Raiders as he made a 43-yard field goal in the game’s final minute.
To his credit, Tavecchio became the first NFL kicker to make two field goals of 50-yards or more in a debut game. Which poses viable questions to Raider Nation, was this a fluke? Or is it time to consider Tavecchio as a realistic replacement to Janikowski?