Kicker's job slips away

Calgary veteran kicks for Buono in hopes of replacing struggling O'Mahony

Vancouver Sun Iain MacIntyre

Duncan O'Mahony, put down this newspaper. Back away slowly. Don't read this. Find your happy place -- in Hawaii preferably.

I will you. Your mom's a psychic, but I don't need her to reach you. You can hear fine because you said after kicking the football sideways on Saturday that maybe the media willed you to miss.

Obviously, we're inside your head. The problem is we're not alone. Your melon is more crowded than Calcutta. It's going as soft as your body. Try tinfoil. Maybe that will keep us out.

But please, for the love of god, don't read this because you're not going to like what it says.

"We're not just fighting a physical thing," Wally Buono said Monday. "That's the hard part. We're way beyond that. Confidence, credibility, expectations, consequences. All these things, we're fighting."

That's not me speaking. That's the B.C. Lions' coach and general manager, who for all his love and support of O'Mahony has finally concluded that the kicker's problems may be too big to fix this season.

Buono met Monday with O'Mahony, who looked forlorn, then drove from the Lions' Surrey training compound to Cloverdale Athletic Park to secretly work out retired Calgary kicker Mark McLoughlin.

Well, not quite secretly, because Vancouver Sun football writer Mike Beamish thought it suspicious that the Lions' uberboss, special-teams coach Mike Benevides, assistant player personnel director Neil McEvoy and McLaughlin, wearing sweats, decided to go for an afternoon drive.

In Cloverdale, McEvoy held, Benevides watched and Buono chased balls behind the sticks as McLoughlin kicked field goals.

Two things were obvious: Buono poses no threat to Lions' returner Aaron Lockett, and McLoughlin, 39, and in his first year of "retirement," still has the leg for it.

He pumped in several from 50 yards then, just to prove it wasn't the wind, turned around and made a couple from 50 the opposite way.

O'Mahony has never made one from 50 in a game.

Afterwards, Buono said that McLoughlin, whom he coached in Calgary, called Sunday, told him he'd be in Vancouver the next day and could he please kick a few.

At that point, with O'Mahony's o'many misses, including three that cost the Lions in Saturday's 28-19 home loss against Saskatchewan, Buono might have watched Trigger kick a few.

For the record, Buono said Monday afternoon he hasn't decided if McLoughlin will get a formal tryout, but there will be someone competing with O'Mahony on Wednesday when the Lions, suddenly vulnerable at 11-2, begin practising for Monday's game in Winnipeg.

"When Mark called me, in my own way, I was happy," Buono said. "It gives me another option. It's a proven option. Is it the best option? I've got to figure that out."

The worst option at this point is O'Mahony, the psychology major from UBC who seemed at wit's end after losing his job mid-game Saturday to fireman and kickoff specialist Bret Anderson. O'Mahony was booed off the field at B.C. Place.

He missed a 35-yarder from dead-on, hooked a 43-yarder, then ankled a 36-yarder towards False Creek before Buono -- for the first time 16 years as a head coach -- changed his field-goal kicker on the fly.

Allowing Anderson to make his world debut on a 48-yarder to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter -- the right side of the Lions' line blocked air and the Roughriders blocked the kick -- reeked of panic.

Buono argued Monday that using his backup kicker was no different than using a backup quarterback.

No one could possibly argue the sense in replacing O'Mahony, who despite his own post-game prediction of dismissal will remain the Lions' punter. The question is about timing.

Why in the fourth quarter of Game 13?

O'Mahony has made only 26 of 41 kicks this season -- his success rate of 63.4 is second-worst in the CFL -- and 10 times he has missed from inside 40 yards.

The search for a kicker should have started when the 29-year-old, signed and nurtured by Buono after he went 2-for-9 in Calgary in 2003, missed chip shots of 28 and 29 yards in the season-opener against Toronto.

O'Mahony later pegged the uprights on a 14-yarder against Edmonton, missed a 25-yarder against Calgary and blew a 21-yarder against Ottawa. O'Mahony also missed a convert. Lions' great Lui Passaglia did that once -- during his 25-year career.

Passaglia, the Lions' director of community relations, made 40 of 44 attempts at age 46 during his final season in 2000. And no, he isn't interested in a comeback at 51. And, no, O'Mahony has never asked him about kicking.

Buono admitted Monday that O'Mahony's erratic work has been a concern all season. But...

"My philosophy has always been that I'd rather work with the people here," he said. "I don't think you can say we haven't done what's best for Duncan. But there's a point in time where you have to take it a step further and say: 'What's best for the club?' It's to the point it needs to be fixed.

"You can see what's going on in practice. The last two or three weeks, it wasn't even getting better in practice. You could see it was actually getting worse. You hope that in a game you can fight through it. That didn't occur.

"I told Duncan today: 'If you want to be a field-goal kicker, you have to work through all this.' It might take one game. It might take the rest of the year. It's tough. It's tough emotionally [on him]. I could tell. It's tough on all of us."

O'Mahony's goin through the same sort of stuff alot of kickers are going through this year. Check out my thread on the declining kickers abilities if you want.

I think Duncan will still be our punter but to bring in some competition for Duncan is a good idea. It will either get him motivated or it may show he can't handle the pressure and crumble thus leaving it a good idea that the Lions should replace him.

I still have faith in Duncan yet it is cautious faith but faith nonetheless. Lions have been spoiled for 25 years with Lui so kicking controversy is probably new to Lions fans. If I heard correctly on the team 1040, Greathouse will be at Lions practice on Wed. I know he played in Calgary but don't know much more about him.

Maybe O'Mahony could restart properly if traded to Ottawa. He would be the best kicker in town there (hey, he sees straight) and could regain confidence. Beside, can the Rens do any worse than now?

Too bad they lost Lawrence ynes to the NFL... he was the best player this franchise had in the last four years.

Duncan O'Mahony and Mark McLoughlin...

Dave Dickenson, Antonio Warren, Otis Floyd, Bobby Singh...

Not to mention Wally Buono...

The B.C. Stampeders ride again!