Will Blair Walsh Be the Next Scott Norwood?

If you paid attention to the end of the wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, you saw Vikings kicker Blair Walsh hook a short field goal badly to the left — a field goal that would have won the game for Minnesota. Instead, Seattle won the game (only to fall to Carolina the next week). Those are the type of plays that break most loyal football fans plus any online sportsbook.

A name that came out in the aftermath of that miss was Scott Norwood, an infamous kicker in Buffalo Bills lore. In Super Bowl XXV, Norwood came on to attempt a 47-yard field goal with just a handful of seconds on the clock. The kick would have won the game for the Bills, but he missed wide right, and Al Michaels’ “Wide Right” call of the kick became connected with Norwood’s name. That loss was the first of four straight in the Super Bowl by Buffalo. Norwood remained with Buffalo the next season, returning to the Super Bowl, and Norwood did not miss any playoff kicks that season — but the team still waived him after that next Super Bowl loss. 

Blair Walsh has a similar kick to haunt him — and one question worth asking is whether this kick will haunt him. Norwood had a good season the year after missing that Super Bowl kick, but after the Bills waived him, he left football behind. What sort of legacy does Walsh have?

In an interview with Peter King for Monday Morning Quarterback, Walsh indicated that he’s not watching a lot of playoff football right now, because those games remind him that his team could still be playing if he had made that kick. He knows that his miss eliminated the Vikings, and he feels badly for the diehard Viking fans. However, he also told King, “A missed field goal is not going to define who I am — and it is not going to ruin my life.” So the tears that Walsh shed in the aftermath of the missed kick are not signs of a destroyed psyche. Instead, they are just short-term grief.

One sign that Walsh will be back for more greatness is how he faced the media right after the game. He didn’t hide in the shower or make himself unavailable. He stood at his locker and said that he was prepared to take all of the questions. The next dozen minutes were filled with the same question, over and over. In 2015, kickers had attempted 191 kicks from 27 yards or closer and made 189 of them. When he looked at his tablet, he realized that he rushed the kick and didn’t follow through properly. That’s not his normal way — he has the 10th best field goal percentage in the history of the league for his career (82.5%).

Another thing that helped was a gift from Northpoint Elementary School in Minneapolis. Twitter erupted with insults (and worse), but the first-grade students at Northpoint gathered 80 drawings and notes supporting Walsh, and they sent the package to the team. Walsh was so affected that he made a point to visit the school, the kids and the teacher who put it together, Julie Offerdahl. He told MMQB, “I’ll keep every note. That was incredibly special. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this community. It shows you that life is about more than the outcome of a football game.”

So if you ended up losing some money because of what Walsh did, the perspective he has shown should tell you that, if the chips are down the next time, maybe you should bet on him to knock that kick through. At the very least, he will be known for more than that one day against the Seahawks.