The Bill Buckner of the NFC South?

One theme emerged in Friday’s NFC South chat that really surprised me.

Multiple readers seem unable to forgive former Carolina kicker John Kasay for his out-of-bounds kickoff late in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Andy in Durham wrote: “I've had mixed feelings about John Kasey for a while. I understand what he's meant to the team, I understand that he's a good guy. But I have a really had time forgiving him for botching a kickoff that ultimately gave Tom Brady the ball at midfield on the final drive of Super Bowl 38. I know you like the guy, but what are your thoughts on that?’’

Jeff in Virginia followed with this: I have to agree with Andy (Durham). Kasay was a good kicker, but he totally choked during the Super Bowl that handed the game to the Patriots (which I cannot stand the Patriots). It's hard to forgive for something like that.’’

I’m surprised because I didn’t realize there is such lingering bitterness toward Kasay, who officially announced his retirement last week. I was under the impression that Carolina fans had long ago let the memory of that kickoff fade and accepted Kasay as one of the franchise’s icons.

As I thought more about it, I can certainly understand that some people still are upset about the kickoff. It very well might have cost the Panthers a Super Bowl championship. It certainly wasn’t a shining moment in franchise history.

But two thoughts come to mind here.

First, I think the rest of Kasay’s career overshadows one botched kickoff. The guy made a lot of big kicks throughout a very long career. He also was a class act. Perhaps most importantly of all, Kasay might have had more influence in the locker room than any kicker in history. He was a leader, which was unusual for a kicker. He also had an uncommon relationship with Steve Smith. I don’t think there was anyone with the Panthers that did more to cool off the mercurial wide receiver when his emotions ran hot.

Second, I grew up a Red Sox fan and have always thought it was unfair to blame Bill Buckner for the 1986 World Series. Other people made mistakes in Game 6 that had just as much to do with the Red Sox losing as Buckner’s error did. I think it’s the same way with Kasay. Yes, he made a mistake. But there were other mistakes and plays that weren’t made in that Super Bowl. If one of those mistakes wasn’t made or if someone had made a big play, the Panthers could have won that Super Bowl and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.