Now, before I tell you that story I gotta tell you this story: I’m gonna take you back to the 2009 Browns season, arguably the worst we’ve had since 1999. I know you don’t want to relive it but bear with me. This was the first full season I watched and was my gateway to football. During that season, our main kicker, the beloved Phil Dawson, was nursing an injury after week 2. So, Billy Cundiff was brought in while Dawson recovered. Cundiff played five games, making all six field goals and all four extra pointers. I remember back then he seemed pretty good and I hoped he found work somewhere after Dawson returned. And he did, going to Baltimore and making the Pro Bowl a year later.
After Phil Dawson went to San Francisco in 2013, Billy Cundiff was brought back to be our kicker. I was happy to see him back in a Browns uniform. I remembered his reliability in 2009 and thought he would be a worthy addition to the team. 2013 proved to be Billy’s best season in two years as he finished with a respectable 80.8% field goal percentage. Billy isn’t known to kick field goals over 50 yards but he nailed a pair of 51 yarders against Baltimore and Cincinnati that season.
Cundiff had some clutch moments towards the end of games and helped seal some wins for Cleveland. There’s always a lot of pressure on the kicker, and all of his mistakes are highlighted while field goals are taken for granted. Billy isn’t one to get his kicks blocked very often and I always felt he had a quick release with his kick. As I was going through his stats on pro-football-reference.com I saw something that confirmed that notion. Billy has had 278 extra point attempts since his career began in 2002… and he’s missed only one (going back to 2003 while with Dallas). ONE. Cundiff has gotten his share of criticism, but statistics don’t lie and that is one hell of a stat. I'm also very supportive of touchbacks on kickoffs. I feel it's best to be conservative and give the opponent the twenty yards instead of risking a gain from the returner. Cundiff was a kickoff specialist in that regard, currently holding the franchise record with 42 touchbacks in a season, set in 2013.
All-in-all, Cundiff may not have been the greatest kicker in the world but I was always impressed with his work ethic and his attitude. He’s a likeable guy and seems like he’s got a plan after football. This dude’s got a master’s degree in business that he received from Arizona State University. Cundiff is a journeyman kicker, trying out or playing for 12 different NFL teams and having multiple stints with us. I hope to see him latch on somewhere else—he’s still got some years left in him.
Thank you, Billy!!