As the quarterback battle continues in Cleveland, another competition continues to unfold alongside it involving lower stakes, lower public interest and an all-around lack of long term consequences for the Browns.
Zane Gonzalez, drafted in the 7th round by the Browns is competing with the incumbent Cody Parkey for the role of the Browns kicker.
That’s not to say that kicking isn’t important; Parkey cost the Browns a win against Miami last season due to a missed game winning field goal. A kicking competition just lacks the glitz and the glamour of a quarterback one.
Yet special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has stated that this is a competition, and that the seventh-round pick Gonzalez does not have the upper hand simply because he was drafted rather than signed.
Excepting the Miami game, Parkey has performed well enough for the Browns, going 20 for 25 (80 percent) and only missing one extra point (95.2 percent). Parkey even made a 51 yarder for the Browns last season.
Before kicking for the Browns, Parkey kicked for the Eagles where he made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, the first undrafted rookie kicker to do so since David Treadwell made it from the 1989 Broncos. He made 32 out of 36 field goals and looked like the future kicker for the Eagles.
Parkey’s career with the Eagles was cut short by his suffering a groin injury, tearing three muscles before a game that ended up with him being placed on IR.
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Cut to 2016, where the Browns are looking for a new kicker a few games into the new season. Parkey goes and gets the job and the rest is history, including the part where the Browns drafted a kicker for the first time since 1989.
Zane Gonzalez was a legendary kicker in the NCAA, holding the FBS record for the most field goals made. He ended his collegiate career with 96 field goals made, beating out Dustin Hopkins’ 88 to take the record. He was a first team All-American and earned All-Pac-12 recognition.
Which is all very impressive, but rookie kickers aren’t always making waves for the right reasons in their debut year. Roberto Aguayo had a terrible year in Tampa last season, kicking 22 for 31 (71 percent) and making the Buccaneers look silly for ever wasting a 2nd round draft pick on him.
This is all to say that it’s hard to judge what kind of success Gonzalez can have until he has a chance to kick in games. Cody Parkey ended up being a decent kicker for the Browns once he settled in, so the drafting of Gonzalez seemed a little unusual given that the Browns didn’t have a glaring hole in the position.
Nevertheless, as the season continues to draw closer the Browns are going to have to make a decision between Cody Parkey and Zane Gonzalez, and it’s going to be one that may have some game changing repercussions for the Browns down the road.