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Billy Cundiff not the first kicker to lose job after playoff disappointment

To some Ravens fans, the thought of Billy Cundiff continuing to be the team’s kicker – after he hooked wide left a 32-yard attempt in January’s 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFCchampionship game – was an unappealing possibility that demanded action.

So Sunday’s news that the organization had terminated Cundiff’s contract was a satisfying outcome to those same fans. And history shows that Cundiff isn’t the first kicker to lose his job after faltering in the postseason.

** Don Cockroft sent a 30-yard try wide left, kicked a 47-yarder just short, and missed an extra-point attempt. The Cleveland Browns eventually lost, 14-12, to the Oakland Raiders in a 1980 AFC divisional contest, and Cockroft never played in the NFL again.

** Doug Brien was unsuccessful from 43 and 47 yards with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, contributing to the Jets’ 20-17 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime of a 2004 AFC divisional game. Brien was waived by New York and played in three games for the Chicago Bears in 2005 before dropping out of football.

** Mike Vanderjagt blocked a 46-yard try wide right with 18 seconds remaining in the Indianapolis Colts’ eventual 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 2005 AFC divisional game. The Colts cut Vanderjagt, who played in 10 contests for the Dallas Cowboys before moving to the CFL and then retirement.

To be fair, there are also a few who bounced back from disappointment to continue enjoying fruitful careers.

** With the Minnesota Vikings owning a 27-20 lead with just over two minutes left in the 1998 NFC championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Gary Anderson sent a 38-yarder wide left. The Falcons surged back to win, 30-27, in overtime. Anderson enjoyed four more productive seasons with the Vikings and two with the Tennessee Titans before retiring.

** Three missed field-goal attempts in a 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in a 2009 AFC divisional game haven’t prevented the San Diego Chargers’ Nate Kaeding from currently ranking as the most accurate kicker in NFL history.

** David Akers rebounded from two misses in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a NFC wild-card contest in January 2011 to break the league record for field goals in a season with 44 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers last season.

“You get more credit than you deserve when you make it and more blame than you deserve when you miss it,” Brien told The Sun in an interview last week. “If you can’t deal with that roller coaster and internally stay even-keeled, then it’s probably not the position for you.”

Being uniquely familiar with Cundiff’s dilemma, Brien sent an email to Cundiff after watching on television Cundiff’s miss against the Patriots.

“I hadn’t talked to Billy in years, but when that happened, my heart went out to him,” Brien said. “I felt bad and shot him an email and said, ‘Keep your head up. You’re a great kicker. Just put it behind you.’”

Whether Cundiff will get that opportunity with another team in the NFL remains to be seen.

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