Saturday, November 27, 2010

Graham Gano

I used to think college football was a waste of time. Hundreds of teams who play 2-3 meaningful games a year and are under the constant pressure to remain undefeated lest their season be ruined, coaches be fired and alumni cry foul. Then I went to a Penn State football game and my perspective went from "whoop-de-doo" to "woo-hoo!"

I still think college football is doing it all wrong, but the experience of a single big time college football game in person changed my entire perspective. And if you know me, you know that life is all about perspective.

On that note, let me provide some perspective about a young man with an annoying last name: Graham Gano.

Gano, who is playing in his first full NFL season, played college football at Florida State,  before being drafted (and later cut) by the Baltimore Ravens. He eventually was signed to the Las Vegas Locomotives. Which, in fact, is not a toy company but a United Football League team.

Gano was signed by the Redskins, after they cut that miserable slouch Shaun Suisham (recently signed by the Steelers), and played in the final four games of the 2009 season, never missing a field goal in that time.

So far in 2010, Gano has missed seven field goals and is under an exorbitant amount of scrutiny from Redskins fans in the DC Metro area.

I get it, its easy to hate a kicker. Especially the Washington Redskins kicker. But before you go bashing this guy, making him an incurable head case and ruining his career, lets think logically about this. Perhaps I can give you a little perspective you don't already have.

He plays for the Redskins, which means he is put in tight spots more often than not, being forced to net long field goals. This season, half of his attempted field goals have been from 40 or more yards away. He's kicked 30 field goals. That's 15 attempts from 40+ yards! I'm spelling this out for you because this is a meaningful stat. Let me repeat, 15 of his 30 FG attempts have been from beyond 40 yards.

The league average for FGs between 40-49 yards is 70%. Gano? 83% making 10 of 12 kicks from that distance.

He's probably had more game winning field goal attempts in his first year than any other kicker ever (Note: I have no statistical evidence to support that, nor will I go looking for it). You'll just have to accept this as truth. The same way we have to believe that Dumbledore is gay. A writer told you to believe it and you have to.

When Graham missed the 47-yarder in regulation against the Tennessee Titans last week that sent the game into overtime, there was a flurry of Facebook hatred towards him. If you look deeper you realize the 47-yarder was directly into the wind and came up about 3 yards short. When he attempted the 48-yarder in overtime, he was facing the other direction, wind at his back and he cleared the goal posts by nearly 15 yards. Meaning, if that kick was from 63 yards out he would have made it...and tied the NFL record for longest kick in a game.

However, thats not good enough for me. Remember earlier this year against the Texans when he netted a 50 yarder to win? Only to have it called back because Gary "I'm going to be fired this week" Kubiak called a time out? Sure he missed the second field goal and it worked for the Texans, but you have to understand not many kickers in the NFL are better than 50% from 50 yards or more (That is statistically true, I looked it up. 52% is the league average for 50+ yard field goals).

What about the 20-some yarder against the Texans that was blocked because Fred Davis decided that jazz fingers were an effective method of blocking Bernard Pollard?

Still not deep enough for me! People piled on Gano for missing the 47-yarder in regulation and never mentioned his name when he won the game for us in OT. I did a little digging. Gano, when playing in the UFL, not only set a UFL record for longest field goal made (53 yards) he also finished the season (his first ever) leading the league in scoring AND field goals made. 

Still not enough! He also netted a game winning field goal for the Locomotives in the championship game leading the Locos to be the first ever UFL Champions.

But you didn't know that did you? Cause you were too busy bashing the guy for being an insufferable slob who can't be 100% from 60+ yards. 

I heard someone say in reference to Gano, "When you can't trust your kicker its time to move on." Interesting. Should we go sign Jeff Reed, recently cut from the Steelers for routinely missing 26 yard field goals and punching gas station paper towel dispensers? Or should we sign a 40+ year old who is washed up and can't kick further than his age? Or should we get the second best kicker in the UFL? Whoever finished behind Gano in points scored and field goals made. How's that for perspective?

Its the guy's first season. He knows how to win games. And he will continue to do so in the future. Make sure you have the right perspective before you bash one of my players. 

Now, I wonder if I can get a good Black Friday deal on a Gano jersey....

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