The Eagles' win against the Patriots in the Super Bowl had to sting the Cincinnati Bengals, at least a little.
They had to watch the kicker they took in the fifth round of the 2017 draft set records for someone else.
Rookie Jake Elliott, who was plucked off the Bengals' practice squad this season, made a 46-yard kick to extend the Eagles' lead to eight points with 1:05 left to play, which ultimately sealed the game for Philadelphia. It also set the record for longest field goal by a rookie in the Super Bowl, breaking Elliott's own record of 42 yards earlier in the game.
It's hard not to feel like the Bengals might have missed out on their kicker of the future. However, that very game showed why the Bengals ultimately selected veteran Randy Bullock over Elliott in training camp.
Elliott made field goals of 25, 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl, but he also missed an early PAT that could have made the difference in the game and forced the Eagles to be aggressive and try for a two-point conversion. There won't be much rehashing of that miss because the Eagles won, but it did show that Elliott wasn't completely reliable on short kicks and PATs.
Elliott's strong leg was an attractive selling point for the Bengals, and in an interesting twist, it was a missed 60-yarder in the last preseason game that probably made it harder for Cincinnati to let him go. Elliott just barely missed that last kick, but showed he had an impressive leg strength that put him in the upper tier of kickers.
That leg strength would be on display for the Eagles, when he set a rookie record by kicking a 61-yard winning field goal against the Giants in the regular season.
Ultimately the Bengals didn't have the patience to ride out his rookie mistakes for a few reasons. As they entered 2017, the Bengals were coming off a 6-9-1 record and heading into the last season of Marvin Lewis' contract. Kicking problems had certainly contributed to their record in 2016 after Mike Nugent missed six field goals and six PATs. He was ultimately cut for Bullock, whose lone miss in six attempts cost them a win against the Texans.
The Bengals wanted to fix the kicking situation, and fix it quickly. They took Elliott in the fifth round of the draft and made him the first kicker off the board. The Bengals, who highly value their picks, hadn't cut a draft pick in his rookie season in several years, so it seemed impossible that they would give the job to anyone else.
It became clear in training camp that wouldn't be the case. Bullock was almost perfect while Elliott was erratic in both practice and games, missing three field goals in preseason games and several in practice. Bullock was clearly the better kicker in the summer, and Lewis later said that if it had even been close, Elliott would have won the job.
Elliott went to the practice squad, was picked up by the Eagles, and went on to make 26-of-31 field goals (84 percent) in the regular season and 39-of-42 extra points (93 percent). Elliott missed three field goals under 40 yards, but was 5-of-6 on attempts of 50-yards or longer.
Bullock also played in 15 games, and made 18-of-20 field goals (90 percent) and 31-of-33 PATs (94 percent). His longest field goal was 51 yards. He went through a rough patch in the middle of the season. He had a 34-yard attempt blocked, missed a game with an injury, and missed PATs in back to back games. He was perfect in his final six games, and overall was solid.
Bullock was certainly not the reason the Bengals went 7-9, and it's unlikely their record would have been much better with Elliott. The Bengals' last-place offense was so bad they couldn't even get into position to make a field goal attempt at times, and Bullock didn't even have an attempt in two blowout losses late in the season. Though Elliott was certainly capable of making field goals from 60 yards, it's hard to imagine the Bengals would have attempted such a long field goal unless they had no other option.
Neither Bullock nor Elliott were perfect this season, although the Bengals got the reliability they wanted in Bullock for the most part. However, the Bengals said they were only committed to Bullock week-to-week when he went through his rough patch. It's unlikely the Eagles feel that way with Elliott, who will probably be kicking there for years to come.
The Bengals made the safe choice at the time, but had they been willing to take a bigger risk, they might have ultimately been rewarded with long-term stability at the position.