EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants once learned the lesson in the most painful way possible. For years they took their specialists for granted. They got kickers and punters as cheaply as possible, converted long-snappers from other positions, and considered all three very disposable and interchangeable parts.
Then came their horrific loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs in 2003, when they lost 39-38 on a dreadful triple disaster by their long-snapper, punter/holder, and kicker when they were lining up for what should've been a game-winning kick.
That's when GM Ernie Accorsi vowed: Never again. And that offseason he went on a special spending spree, bringing in quality veterans at long-snapper (Ryan Kuehl), punter (Jeff Feagles) and kicker (Mike Hollis, and later Steve Christie). He did not want to see his team lose a game ever again just because he tried to save a few bucks at those positions.
That's the mistake former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan made in March when he didn't re-sign Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers.
And now the Jets can only hope that decision doesn't become disastrous for them this fall.
It certainly looks like they're headed in that direction, though, after their kicking follies in the first two preseason games. First, veteran Chandler Catanzaro missed two extra points in the opener, and then promptly retired the next day. Then, Taylor Bertolet was re-signed only to miss two extra points of his own in Game 2, while just barely sneaking a 49-yard field goal inside the right upright.
The Jets have the makings of a playoff contender this season. Maccagnan left almost all the pieces in place before he was fired in May. But his worst decision may turn out to be not re-signing Myers, who took a four-year, $15.45 million deal (with $5.5 million guaranteed) from Seattle instead.
Why? To save a few dollars for a team that entered the offseason with nearly $100 million in salary cap space?
"Teams never learn," said one NFL executive. "Nobody wants to pay kickers or punters, but look how often games are won or lost at those positions."
Or to put it another way: How devastating would it be if the Jets miss the playoffs because of a missed extra point or field goal? That's not an unrealistic scenario considering their kickers are currently 1-for-5 on extra points this preseason -- when the pressure is off.
So yeah, new GM Joe Douglas has to fix this and clean up the one big mess Maccagnan left behind. The Jets have $13.2 million in salary cap room, so they can't be cheap about it either and everything -- and anyone -- is worth a try. The kicker position is just too important to make it an afterthought, especially in an NFL era defined by parity. The Jets had six games decided by a touchdown or less last season, and this year it will likely be more.
They are just not good enough to be willing to throw away the easy points a kicker can get for them. They can't let their entire season turn on someone's unqualified leg.
So what can Douglas do about it? He already tried to trade for kicker Kaare Vedvik, an NFL source confirmed, before the Baltimore Ravens sent him to Minnesota for a fifth-round pick last week. That would've been a bold move for an impressive, young kicker. Those are the kind of moves Douglas needs to pursue.
Of course, this late in the summer, there aren't many options. But here are a few for him to look at, before it's too late:
Matt Bryant (free agent)
Forget the fact that he's 44. He made 95.2 percent of his field goals last season (20-of-21), including a 57-yarder. He did miss two extra points, but he's only missed three in the last decade. He had a hamstring injury last season and age is a concern, but it's hard to beat his accuracy.
Cairo Santos (Bucs)
Yes, the former Jet who was cut in training camp in 2018, one day after the Jets claimed Myers off waivers. He is likely to lose a training camp battle in Tampa with fifth-round pick Matt Gay. He was also only 9-of-12 in seven games for the Bucs last season, and hasn't been a full-time kicker since 2016. But he converted 88.6 percent then, and has missed only six extra points in his five NFL years.
Matt McCrane (free agent)
The 24-year-old joined the Steelers last year right before their regular-season finale when Chris Boswell was placed on IR. And then, in a game the Steelers needed to win, he kicked three field goals - including from 47 and 35 in the final nine minutes - in a 16-13 win. That's clutch kicking and, along with his strong leg, it makes him worthy of a look in the final two weeks of camp.
Eddy Pineiro (Bears)
The Bears just cut Elliott Fry, ending their kicking competition, but they're apparently still on the lookout for veteran help. If they find it and let the 23-year-old Pineiro go, he was one of the best kickers ever to come out of the University of Florida.
Austin Seibert (Browns)
The Browns drafted the Oklahoma kicker in the fifth round, but he might not beat out veteran Greg Joseph. He's a bit of a raw prospect with a strong leg, so he could be a risky play if he's even available. He's tough, though. He once competed on American Ninja Warrior.