I’d say that’s an emphatic YES, as Wil Lutz at this specific moment in time below hit the biggest kick of his career and put the Saints ahead of the Vikings with 25 seconds left to go in regulation.
Alas, it was not to be, as the events that followed it came to be known as the Minnesota Miracle. However, looking back on his second year with the team - it’s fair to assume that Sean Payton has solved the riddle of kicker for the Saints’ next window of opportunity.
On the year, Lutz made 31-of-36 field goals, good for 86.1 percent, and hit 47-of-50 extra points, good for 94 percent. If you delve into those numbers a little deeper, then you’ll find that he went 10-of-10 on field goals from 20-29 yards.
Why are those numbers significant?
Think back to when it was the chip shot field goal that plagued the Saints. The easy one that if the kicker nails, it’s a surefire win for the Saints - and low and behold it hits the crossbar, gets blocked, or it’s wide right or left.
Oh the agony of our forefathers must have felt, forced to wear brown paper bags as they endured some of the stranger kicker follies in NFL history at the most inopportune times.
Lutz made his way to New Orleans by way of a relationship that Sean Payton has with John Harbaugh, who put him on Payton’s radar because there was no chance he’d make the team over their starting kicker at the time.
He had obvious talent, and the workout that proceeded led to Payton saying he had “probably the best kicking workout I’ve ever seen”.
“I just thought the velocity, the accuracy ... and the way it came off his foot, his leg strength ... every element to it,” Payton said. “So we saw X number of field goals, X number of kickoffs, deep kickoffs, short. And when it was over with I looked at (pro scouting director Terry Fontenot) and everyone else that was at the workout, and I said, ‘Have we seen anything else like that?’ It was real impressive.”
It wasn’t all roses and apricots however, as Lutz had trouble with the trajectory of his kicks, resulting in quite a few of them being blocked. This eventually drew the ire of Payton, who was so convinced that he had the right kicker that he brought in a kicking specialist – Kevin O’Dea - to help with his stroke.
His arrival provided a rather unorthodox exercise that almost immediately improved the height of Lutz kicks.
When O’Dea came in, he brought with him two blue pipes (almost like water noodles on PVC pipe) that reached about 13 feet high. Two Saints staffers would each stand with a pipe opposite Lutz when he attempted kicks. Picture Manute Bol with his hands raised on a ladder.
With the aid of O’Dea, Lutz would end up finishing the year 12-for-12 and the requisite confidence boost would set him up for future success.
For his follow-up campaign, Lutz rewarded Payton’s faith in him with arguably the best season a kicker has had in Payton’s tenure, bringing you clutch kick classics (say that 3x’s fast), such as “Beating the Redskins on a Sunny Sunday” and “Open 57 Eleven” vs. the Panthers.
As his catalog of hits expands, Lutz adds stability to a special teams unit that appears to be on the upswing. He has a huge leg that’s allowed Thomas Morstead to hand off the place kicking duties, and the consistency he’s provided has finally provided answers the age old question of, “can he play kicker?”
Ya’ Damn Skippy he can!