TEMPE, Ariz. -- To Zane or not to Zane. That will be one of the Arizona Cardinals' most important decisions this offseason.
When the Cardinals evaluate their roster and start making decisions for 2021, they'll take a long look at who their kicker will be going forward. And for good reason.
Zane Gonzalez missed late fourth-quarter field goal attempts last season that would've either tied the game against the Miami Dolphins or put them ahead against the New England Patriots. Arizona ended up losing both.
And Gonzalez nearly cost the Cardinals a crucial Week 7 game against the Seattle Seahawks by missing a 41-yard field goal attempt in overtime. Fortunately, he had a chance to redeem himself later in overtime and hit a 48-yarder to give Arizona the win.
A win in either or both would've likely put the Cardinals in the playoffs, which they missed after losing a win-or-go-home season finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
After the Dolphins game, Kingsbury said he still trusted Gonzalez.
And after the Patriots game, Kingsbury said he felt Gonzalez had "kicked the ball well over the last two seasons."
And on Dec. 7, a day after Gonzalez missed the Giants game with a back injury, Kingsbury publicly backed his kicker.
"Zane is our kicker," Kingsbury said.
But Gonzalez's season prematurely ended on Dec. 19, when he was put on injured reserve with that back injury that showed up after a Week 13 loss to the Rams, when Gonzalez missed a 48-yarder with eight seconds left in the second quarter and Arizona down a touchdown. He was inactive a week later as Mike Nugent, called up from the practice squad, took over the kicking duties.
Gonzalez finished the season going 16-for-22. He made 8 of 13 from longer than 40 yards but 2 of 3 from longer than 50.
In four games, the 38-year-old Nugent was 7-for-8 and 2-for-2 from longer than 40.
After the season, coach Kliff Kingsbury was non-committal about his kicker in 2021.
"As far as the kicker, we've said all along we like Zane [Gonzalez], have a lot of faith in Zane and we're still evaluating all things moving forward," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals signed Gonzalez to their practice squad late in the 2018 season and promoted him soon after when former kicker Phil Dawson was put on injured reserve with a hip injury.
Since then, Gonzalez is 54-of-66 -- or 81.8% -- on field goals, 15-for-23 from 40 or longer and 6-for-9 on 50 or longer.
What got him cut from the Browns earlier in 2018, however, was a 2-for-5 start after going 15-for-20 in 2017.
After he was the replacer, Gonzalez got replaced.
Soon after, Kingsbury was impressed with how Nugent "handled everything."
A few days before putting Gonzalez on IR, Kingsbury said the Cardinals were "definitely confident" in Nugent.
"He's got a great approach. He's been around this league a lot and kicked at a high level for a long time, so we feel confident."
Just how confident is the question going into the 2021 offseason.