(Note: Apologies for the weird update schedule lately. There have been problems with emails getting to and from each of our writers and we’ve lost an article or two, including this past week’s pick’em standings. On top of that, Bam is taking a well-deserved vacation of sorts so we’re down one administrator. We should have everything fixed up by the end of the week. -Brian.)
Ever since Jeff Reed’s struggles became noticeable this season, and especially with the news that he was released, I started wondering how well a replacement kicker actually performs, and whether Reed was performing worse than that. This post is the result.
The most tedious thing about a study like this is creating the data set. I went to Pro Football Reference (one of the best sites out there for traditional football stats) and compiled a list of all the kickers for the past six years that played a partial season and were not injured (checking for “not injured” led me to Wikipedia, which comes with the usual grain of salt, but I think I used common sense). Thus, I had a list of all the kickers from 2004-09 that either performed poorly or replaced either a poor performer or an injured kicker. Jump it for the chart and analysis!
I decided to reproduce only a portion of the chart, so that it would fit on this page. The full chart, broken down by distance, is on Google Docs here.
|Name||Year||FG%||Lg Avg %||FG%+||Att||Made|
The thing to take away from this long chart? The replacement-level kickers had a collective percentage of 74.4%, 91% of the success of, or about 7.5 percentage points below, the average field goal kicker. Jeff Reed’s field goal percentage this season is 68.2%, so he has indeed performed well below that. A big part of Reed’s downfall was going 0-for-4 between 40 and 49 yards. The replacement-level kickers kicked at just below 60% at that distance, while the league as a whole has hovered around 70% the past few years.
The second question that has to be answered is: could Reed still have been an 81.9% field goal kicker that just had a poor nine games? I won’t bore you with the statistical details (those that know can calculate themselves to check my math, it’s Binomial(22, .819); sorry, I couldn’t resist), but there is only an 8.7% chance that, if Reed really is still an 81.9% kicker, he would miss 7 of 22 field goals. So, there likely is something wrong with Reed, either mentally or physically.
A couple interesting things I noticed while creating the chart:
- Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t kick anymore. John Carney and Morten Andersen in particular were guys in their 40s who were signed as injury or poor performance replacements and had among the best seasons of their career
- Scrap heap kickers can be good finds. The Steelers know this firsthand; if I’d gone back further, Reed himself would have been on this chart. The Bears also found Robbie Gould as an injury/performance replacement for Doug Brien.
On a final note, one of the better replacement performers in that chart is none other than Shaun Suisham. He was off to the best season of his career last year (85.7%) until he missed a 23-yard field goal in Week 12 and was released the following week. So, as far as replacement kickers go, you could have far worse, like Steven Hauschka, for example.