Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had the worst night of his NFL career on Saturday. In his team’s divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, he missed two crucial field goals in the first half, which may have tipped the balance in a game the Ravens eventually lost 17-3.
In his defense, there were two factors that conspired against Tucker that night — the wind and Al Michaels.
The “announcer jinx”
Recently, NFL Films has released a video about the phenomenon of the “announcer jinx”. Unfortunately, the NFL won’t let us embed their videos on our site for some reason, so all we can do is link to it and ask that you check it out.
In short, it happens when an announcer praises a player for some positive trait or predicts that some event will happen. Immediately afterward, the opposite event of that prediction happens. For example, if an announcer predicts that a field goal will go through, the field goal will miss. This phenomenon is not exclusive to football, but is prevalent there.
Exactly this scenario played out on Saturday night when Justin Tucker lined up to attempt a 41-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. Just before the kick, NBC’s Al Michaels uttered these famous last words.
He almost never misses.Al Michaels, NBC Sports
Inevitably, Tucker did just that, knocking the kick off the left upright.
Do announcers have a grudge against Justin Tucker?
Incredibly, this is not even the first or second time this has happened to Justin Tucker. At least two other announcers have afflicted him with the “announcer jinx”.
Late in the 2018 season, the Ravens went to the StubHub Center to play the Chargers. Early in the game, Tucker lined up to take a 53-yarder. Just before the kick, NFL Network play-by-play man Mike Tirico called him “the gold standard” for kicking, and Tucker repaid Tirico by pulling the kick wide to the left.
Earlier this season, the lead Fox NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman went down a similar path. During the Ravens-Cowboys game this December, Tucker lined up to take a 36-yard field goal. To that point, he had made 70 straight from within 40 yards, and Buck confidently asserted that this attempt would be no different.
Guess what happened next.
So…should we blame Al Michaels for the Ravens’ loss?
Obviously, the idea of the “announcer jinx” makes absolutely no sense. It’s not as if the players can listen to the television broadcast of the game and hear what the announcers have to say about them.
All of these cases are just sheer coincidence. But to the television viewer who is 100% emotionally invested in the game, it doesn’t seem that way. Part of the reason Joe Buck is so reviled is for his ability to come off as, to quote AMC’s Brockmire, “a homer and a hater at the same time.”
As mentioned above, Tucker also had to deal with wind gusts up to 17 miles per hour in Buffalo. These aren’t completely unmanageable conditions, but they certainly aren’t ideal even for the best NFL kicker. His Bills counterpart, Tyler Bass, also missed on two field-goal attempts within 50 yards.
Justin Tucker has a reputation as one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history, so it does make sense for announcers to stake their reputation on whether he makes the next kick.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.