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The Browns Kicker Carousel Stops at Chase McLaughlin

Browns punter Jamie Gillan and kicker Chase McLaughlin celebrate during game against the Bears
Ken Blaze
/
USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns punter Jamie Gillan (7) and kicker Chase McLaughlin (3) celebrate after McLaughlin kicked a field goal during the second half against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium.

As if getting into the NFL wasn’t hard enough in the first place, it is even harder to be a kicker in the league, let alone one that maintains a job with one team.

Commentator Terry Pluto says kickers in the NFL face the pressure of perfection.

"They're not supposed to miss an extra point. They're not supposed to miss a field goal. I mean, after all, what do they do? They just kick the ball a couple times a game," said Pluto. "That's how football people look at it."

Kicker carousel
For the Cleveland Browns, the search for a kicker has been on since Phil Dawson left in free agency in 2012. Dawson, the Browns franchise leader in field goals made (among other franchise records), signed with the San Francisco 49ers, then Arizona to end his career in 2018.

Since 2012, Pluto says the Browns have been through nine different kickers. None started two years in a row.

A glimmer of hope came when Cody Parkey hit 87.4% of his field goals last season, but he got injured in the preseason and was let go.

Enter Chase McLaughlin, an NFL journeyman who went from competing for a starting role to getting it by default, and then exceeding expectations.

"It looks like when you are in the airport and you see all the flights taking off and the cities. That's what this looked like for this guy."
Terry Pluto

Who is Chase McLaughlin?
McLaughlin was a walk-on at the University of Illinois. By the time his college career was over, he was awarded the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year honor, given to the Big Ten's top kicker.

McLaughlin was undrafted in 2019. So, he had brief stints with nine different teams: the Bills, Vikings, Chargers, 49ers, Colts, Jaguars, Jets, and now, the Browns.

"It looks like when you are in the airport and you see all the flights taking off and the cities. That's what this looked like for this guy," said Pluto.

Chase Mc"Luck"lin
McLaughlin has been stellar for the Browns so far, going a perfect 7-for-7 on field goals. He joined Phil Dawson as the only Browns kickers to make at least two field goals of 50 yards or more in a single game.

McLaughlin made a 57-yard field goal against the Bears, the third longest in Browns history.

"If this guy ends up kicking here for [a while] and ends up doing well, that'll be the story," Pluto said. "The kicker who was just there in case the starter got hurt actually gets the job."

Though he has been doing well so far, Pluto reminds fans of Dawson's mantra: "You're only as good as your next kick."

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Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.
Christian Hinton is a Senior at Kent State University majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Through his time at Kent State University, he's had his own sports radio show on Black Squirrel Radio along with participating in live sports reporting for TV2.