DENVER — Brandon McManus was mad. Actually, make that next-level furious, right down to his core.
Because on Sunday, Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio denied the team’s veteran kicker a chance just before halftime to try what would have been either a 64- or 65-yard field goal attempt — a kick that could have tied or set a new record for the longest field goal in NFL history.
McManus initially ran out onto the field because he expected to try the field goal. When coach Vic Fangio opted to keep the offense on the field, McManus walked to the sideline yelling in Fangio’s direction, as well as toward special-teams coach Tom McMahon. McManus then ripped off his helmet and, with both hands, slammed it on the ground in the Broncos bench area.
“I know I can make the kick,” McManus said afterward. “And this is a storied game that I grew up watching, and it was a dream of mine to play in this league — and if I was able to have my name mentioned as the longest field goal in NFL history, [I] would love that. That’s why I would have loved to kick that attempt.”
All’s well that ended well for the Broncos and McManus, who instead kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the second half to give the Broncos a 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Still, McManus wanted history. He routinely makes kicks of that length or longer in warm-ups each week. It’s also worth noting that three of the five field goals in league history of at least 63 yards have been made in Denver’s 5,280-foot altitude.
That total includes the record 64-yard kick made by then-Broncos kicker Matt Prater against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 8, 2013. Former Broncos kicker Jason Elam also made a 63-yarder in 1998, and then-Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski made a 63-yarder in 2011.
“He hasn’t been here that long to see, you know, my total range,” McManus said of first-year coach Vic Fangio. “… I knew I could make it; they’ve seen me make it in practice. We were right at the line that I gave him [before the game].”
Fangio over his explanation.
“I didn’t want to try the 65-yarder,” Fangio said. “At that point, I didn’t think it was desperation, and I’ve seen many times where guys go out there and try extra-long kicks and they alter their mechanics and it affects them the rest of the game. So I’m going to say that decision not to let him go out there for the 65-yarder led him to making the 52- and the 53-yarder.”
McManus did make all three of his field goal attempts in the game — a 31-yarder in the second quarter to go with 52- and 53-yarders in the fourth quarter. Asked about Fangio saying kickers alter their mechanics in longer attempts McManus said quickly: “Does a Hail Mary affect the way a quarterback throws the ball?”
In the end, McNanus said he and Fangio are “100 percent” OK with each other, but it didn’t stop McManus from making a statement just before the second half began Sunday. When he came out for his usual warm-up at the end of halftime, McManus put the kicking tee down where the attempt would have been just before halftime and easily pounded a 65-yard kick through the uprights.
Asked if he wanted the coaches to see that, he said simply: “Of course, of course.”
Sunday’s winner was the sixth in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime for McManus. He and Prater are the franchise’s only kickers to make multiple field goals of 50 yards or more in the fourth quarter or overtime in the same game.
But that small slice of team history wasn’t quite enough.
“Kicking is a completely mental game; you battle the struggles, the ebbs and flows of it,” McManus said. “Head coaching, I would say we deal with a lot of the same scrutiny. He has to make decisions, and I have to make pressure kicks. At the end of the day, I’m mad because I didn’t get to kick; and in his mind, he made the right decision for the team. I have no problem with that. But like I said, I would love to have my name mentioned in the history books.”