There are going to be somewhere around 10 in-season openings for NFL placekickers this year because there have been somewhere around that many every year since the rules were changed to make kicking more stressful. The chance that one of them will go to Carli Lloyd is minimal.
But not necessarily because the nation isn’t ready for such bolshevik notions like merit. Because she’s decided she’s not ready. Yet.
If her trainer, James Galanis, is correct that two NFL teams have already inquired about her availability (she’s busy dealing with Portugal on Thursday night in her other job), the first hurdle has been cleared. That first hurdle, of course, being the resistance of men in power who believe that a uterus is somehow an impediment to athletic excellence.
The second hurdle is the fact that she wants to give herself the best chance to succeed, so she says she’s aiming at 2020 rather than when the Chicago Bears cut their first kicker.
Under normal circumstances, in play here would be the Rule of the Second, which states that trailblazers have to clear all the underbrush so that those who follow have an easier path. Lloyd, as the first female NFL candidate, would logically catch 90 percent of the available ire of Troglodyte Nation. It’s not a barrier to Lloyd’s foot, but it is an irritant that the second woman and those who follow her into the industry will face in far smaller proportions.
At least it would be. But Lloyd has already bent the “because she’s a girl” structure based on the NFL reaching out to her, even if only tentatively.
Now we don’t know who these two teams are that have inquired after her leg, but unless Galanis is lying to drum up interest (and we have no evidence to suggest such a thing), the league itself is beginning to tackle the notion that what the kicking industry needs is a wider employment pool. And if that is so, maybe the objections of the ignorant won’t matter at all. Lloyd, after all, seems as qualified to send her gender-driven critics a middle finger as she does using her leg to beat opponents and betting lines across the nation. And if she’s got job interviews lined up already based on a viral video, then she’s not blazing the trail as much as maybe the trail is blazing itself to her.
The signs have been there awhile, after all. As Gabriel Baumgaertner pointed out in The Guardian, Lloyd would only be the first woman to kick in an NFL game, because most of the other levels of American football have already been breached, including FBS football.
Until the version of the job that actually pays money got harder and more psychologically volatile in 2015, it wasn’t really that much of a job. Barring injury, you were converting 97 percent of your conversions and 85-plus percent of your field goals, and you could keep the job for years. Adam Vinatieri HAS kept his job for years, and he’s still, at age 46, a middle-of-the-pack performer. Carli Lloyd at 37 is five months older than Robbie Gould, who was the league’s best kicker a year ago.
So what we have here, ultimately, is a woman who has only two things to prove: that she can win a competition to get a job, and then perform well enough to hold it. Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, who suggested Lloyd might not be of much use as a tackler after a blocked field goal, forgets that most kickers aren’t much use as tacklers, and that one of the best kickers in league history, Sebastian Janikowski, typically avoided contact as though it were smeared in plague.
Now we get to see if the NFL is as eager to prove that it thinks Carli Lloyd can be Graham Gano or Dustin Hopkins as Galanis says it is. I mean, given that it’s the NFL, all bets should be hedged and then hedged again, but the idea that some rogue thinkers inside the league are venturing outside the box is not only weird, but maybe even satisfactory.
We’ll know for sure if a second woman catches the league’s eye as it churns through kickers as it has the last couple of years. Say, Crystal Dunn or Lindsey Horan. Maybe Lloyd can put in a good word.
Ray Ratto wants to read the Carli Lloyd fantasy football profile he knows is out there being typed even as we read.