Chargers hope Tristan Vizcaino is the kicker to solve their late-game issues

Tristan Vizcaino's strong leg and consistency won him the Chargers' kicking job over incumbent Michael Badgley. Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The self-announced (and self-trademarked) "Money Badger" is no longer on the Los Angeles Chargers' 53-man roster.

Michael Badgley was one of the cuts made to get the squad to the required limit. In his place, they kept Tristan Vizcaino, who got into kicking by virtue of his friend's dad, who held the ball for him before practice when he was 10 years old old -- 40 minutes down the road from SoFi Stadium in Chino Hills, California.

Talk about local boy doing good.

"For it to be with the team I grew up loving is amazing," Vizcaino said in his first news conference. "I'm extremely excited to be here."

Chargers coach Brandon Staley said the conversation with Badgley, who spent three seasons with the Chargers, was tough. What convinced Staley to make the change was Vizcaino's leg strength, which the Chargers hope can make the difference in turning close losses (the Chargers have 16 one-score losses the past two seasons) into victories.

Vizcaino moved around the league a bit before settling with the Chargers. He wasn't drafted after finishing his career at the University of Washington in 2017. Since January 2019 he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, waived, then signed by the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati again. He then signed with the Minnesota Vikings, was released and made his regular-season debut with the San Francisco 49ers late in the 2020 season, then was on the Buffalo Bills' practice squad before being picked up by the Chargers in March.

Got all that? Is your head spinning?

"I've learned that the NFL is a crazy business," Vizcaino said. "Coming out of college I knew I had to improve. I wanted to be able to kick at an NFL level. I knew if I put the time in and dedicated myself to it, eventually it would happen. It's been a long ride but it's been worth it."

He might have won the job in a preseason scrimmage against the 49ers where he went 5-for-5 (made field goals of 33, 41, 44, 47 and 52 yards). Badgley missed from 43, but made four others. Last season Badgley missed 12 kicks (nine field goals and three extra points) including five field-goal attempts in the 40-49 yard range.

What might have done him was missing kicks at key times last season, like when he missed a potential game-winning kick at the end of regulation in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints, a game the Chargers lost in overtime.

His fate might have been sealed with his performance against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15, when Badgley twice could have given the Chargers a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter. He missed on a 47-point attempt with 3:44 left and then, after Chris Harris Jr. intercepted Marcus Mariota to set the Chargers up, Badgley missed on a 51-yarder with 58 seconds left. The Chargers eventually won the game in overtime, but could have clinched the win well before then.

That drew the attention of GM Tom Telesco and, eventually, Staley, who brought in Vizcaino.

"Ultimately what convinced me and our coaching staff about Tristan was that this guy has real talent," Staley said of Vizcaino. "We felt that he has a lot of ability. ... If there's a product in there, that if we continue to tap into that development, that there's a really talented player there. Then, the kickoff aspect of the job was really important. We feel like he has a really special kickoff leg."