On September 13, 1987, Steve Cox made a 40 yard field goal. It was slightly unusual, in that Cox was primarily a punter. On occasion however, he would handle longer field goal attempts - 15 throughout his 8 year career. But that is not why we remember that particular kick.
Throughout history, humankind has demonstrated the ability to learn, adapt, and change. But change is not always easy - especially fundamental shifts. Some individuals will cling to the old ways, despite the inevitable change sweeping passed them. Some will complain until the bitter end.
Ed Agner recollects on the personal impact of one such fundamental change in the kicking game:
"It happened every time. I knew the routine and the dialogue by heart. I could even see it coming most of the time too. The kicker would line up, I'd get a queasy feeling in my stomach and think of ways to steal the remote and change the channel before the side-winding kicker sent a ball sailing wide right or left and Dad launched into his diatribe about the evils of soccer-style kickers. It didn't matter how many times the advantages of kicking soccer-style was explained, my Dad hated soccer-style kickers with a passion usually reserved for hippies, lawyers, politicians, the IRS and door-to-door salesmen. Dad wanted (and still wants, actually) a world where ALL kickers looked like mechanics or shady used-car salesmen, kicked straight-on and played a REAL position too. Or two out of three of those at least - with kicking straight-on being mandatory. In the NFL after George Blanda, Don Cockroft, Tom Dempsey and Jim Turner were put out to pasture, Mark Moseley was the closest thing to a King to my Dad - which was odd given Dad's Cowboy fandom but..."
Criticism of the new soccer style kickers was certainly not limited to fans. The soon-to-be-extinct straight ahead kickers had less than favorable things to say. The aforementioned Don Cockroft commented:
"They were flaky kickers. They were weird. I'm sorry, but I always considered myself an athlete and these guys were, like, funny.... I kept asking myself, ‘What are these weird, wimpy dudes doing kicking the ball?' They didn't even know what football was. They were coming to the ball from the side. They were strange. They were just these little guys."
The straight ahead kickers came to the brink of extinction in 1986, when Mark Moseley retired. He was the last full-time straight-on kicker in the league. The honors for the final straight kick however belonged to a part-timer. In the latter years of Moseley's career, the Washington Redskins began letting the strong-legged punter handle long field goal attempts. Steve Cox's 40 yarder is now a trivia question answer. Of course he could lose that distinction if there is ever a straight-ahead revival, something that ten years ago Moseley suggested is within the realm of possibility:
"There's no reason a straight-ahead kicker, if he kicked that way, and put the time in as these other guys, couldn't do it. My son kicked straight ahead in high school, and was very good. He could have kicked in college. He decided not to, but there's no reason he couldn't have gone on.... It's a sign of the times. I was the last one so there's nobody else out there for kids to see kick that way. Now, the coach goes over to the soccer team, and recruits his placekicker. Then they go and get coached in that style, and that's how it's done....
The problem is you can't find a square-toed shoe anymore. No one makes a square-toed shoe."