K Doug Brien has been the picture of consistency since becoming a NY Jet. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
In the real world, when companies are looking to hire, the first qualification they review is experience. Contrarily, in the NFL, teams are inclined to choose inexperience and youth over the battle-tested veteran. There are the rare exceptions when reality meets the NFL and slaps the players in the face. In 2002, the victim of this harsh reality was New York Jets PK Doug Brien. That year, as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Brien struggled during the preseason, converting 1 of 5 field goal attempts. Then, in game 2 against Buffalo, the usually consistent Brien uncharacteristically missed two extra points which contributed to a heartbreaking loss. Despite having an 80% lifetime FG percentage, Brien was replaced by prehistoric 44 year old Gary Anderson and a few weeks later was later released by Minnesota.
Thrown to the league’s scrap heap, Brien sat out the rest of the 2002 season and when 2003 came around he was in desperate need of a job. Then, when Redskins threw a fortune to incumbent Jets kicker John Hall during that off-season, the team brought in Brien and he was given a golden opportunity for redemption. After 20 games as a NY Jet, head coach Herm Edwards could not be more pleased with his 33-year old kicker and Jets fans don’t even remember Hall.
“He is a solid kicker, he really is,” Edwards said. “We trust him.”
That trust was solidified by Brien’s performance during the past two regular seasons games this year. In Week 4 versus the Miami Dolphins, Brien, who has never been known as a long range FG artist, nailed a 53-yard field goal that would have been good from 60, a career long on a grass field. Brien’s encore performance was providing the deciding points in a 16-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, hitting a 38-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
Surprisingly, Brien admitted feeling no additional pressure prior to his attempt.
“When you’re successful, absolutely nothing is going through your mind” Brien said. “You have to go out there and kick like you’re kicking in your backyard. I thought back to kicking soccer balls into a net in my backyard.”
Lasting 11 seasons in the NFL speaks volumes for itself. Yet everywhere he’s played up to now, Brien has been set free by the organization despite steady production. Brien began his career in 1994 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, playing all 16 games during his rookie year. Brien then spent the next six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, enjoying his best year statistically in 1998, finishing with a 90.0 field goal percentage. For the next two seasons, Brien would play sparingly, participating in just nine games as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. At this stage in his career, Brien is hopeful the Jets are his last stop on a productive, yet journeyman career.
“I just try to do my best every single week,” Brien said. “I am very grateful and thankful for the confidence that Herm (Edwards) and the organization have in me. My job is to repay them for the confidence.”
That confidence was exhibited when the team decided against inviting in competition for Brien at training camp this summer. The positive reinforcement bestowed upon Brien throughout the year has allowed the veteran kicker to focus exclusively on his production in 2004.
“This is about putting together a solid season,” Brien said, refusing to dwell on the past. “If I can keep plugging away, then I can help us win a lot more games.”
Winning games would certainly facilitate Brien in maintaining his role with the team. More importantly, helping the team win a championship would allow Brien to keep his resume stored away until after he concludes his football career.