Expect the Ram’s special teams’ unit to look a little different in 2020. Rams long time coach John Fassel and kicker Greg Zuerlein both departed for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason; leaving questions as to who might take their position––given that the Ram’s special teams room has excelled these last 8+ years. The Rams ultimately hired Fassel’s replacement in John Bonamego, who was most recently coaching for the Detroit Lions and has 20 years of NFL coaching experience. As for the kicker position, Rams went out and acquired 3 different kickers to compete; Lirim Hajrullahu who was a grey cup champion in the CFL, Sam Sloman who was drafted in the 7th round out of Sean McVay’s alma matter Miami Ohio University, and Austin MacGinnis from the XFL Dallas Renegades.
Hajrullahu and MacGinnis both signed a 3-year contract back in April. According to overthecap.com, neither players will result in dead money if they are cut. In Sloman’s case, the Rams invested a draft pick in him, so it surely seems they presume him to be the front runner. These 3 players have all proven to be valuable, especially in terms of accuracy, showing off incredible leg strength through lengthy field goals.
However, it’s worth noting that MacGinnis shouldn’t be overlooked. The dark horse of the three, he’s achieved a ton of success throughout his career that just isn’t being talked about. MacGinnis is the University of Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer. While playing for UK, MacGinnis kicked multiple game-winners including an upset over Heisman winner Lamar Jackson’s #11 ranked Louisville, as well as a 51 yarder right down the middle against Mississippi State. His former teammates instilled both faith and trust in him, similar to the faith the Rams players saw in Greg Zuerlein when he was lining up for a field goal. On top of that, his extra point percentage while in college was an astounding 98.1% while only missing two; the efficiency from him is something the Rams could surely use again.
Since he exemplifies the McVay “we not me” philosophy, he’ll fit right in with the team and more importantly, earn the respect of the other players. Not only is he humble, always giving credit to his snapper, holder, and punter, he’s also confident––another important character trait for kickers. In a 2018 interview, MacGinnis says of beating Mississippi State, “In my head, the only thing I was thinking about was, ‘I’m going to make this kick.’ Nothing else crossed my mind. No fear, no doubt. No fear or anxiety. I put so much into it with the training and the preparation, and that’s where you get your confidence. You know you can do it from your training and preparation.”
Beyond college, his XFL career proved him as the most accurate kicker in the league, converting on all 10 of his field goals attempts with the Renegades. When going up against the St. Louis Battlehawks, he attributed to every point the Renegades put up. In his kicking debut for the AFL’s Memphis Express, he went 4/4 and kicked the game-winner––giving the Express a victory over the San Diego Fleet.
While he’s had tryouts with multiple NFL teams, including the Patriots, Bears, and Cowboys, all have passed on him––which is unfortunate (for them). Luckily for us, the Rams have decided to give him a shot. So, while we may be filled with uncertainty concerning our special teams, and while the loss of Zuerlein may be a big one, there is reason to believe that we might find a satisfactory successor in MacGinnis.