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The Moore's Law of NFL Field Goal Kicking
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At FiveThirtyEight, sports data analyst Benjamin Morris comprehensively quantifies my obsession with the steady improvement in field goal kicking in the NFL. It’s hard to tell how much better offenses have gotten at executing because, presumably, defenses have gotten better too. Since placekickers, however, are mostly competing against nature rather than the defense, their steady improvement is clear. Lately, they’ve been making about 65% of their attempts from 50+ yards. That’s really far — stand on a the 40 yard line of a high school football field and look at width of the goal posts at the back of the end zone, then reflect that NFL goal posts are narrower.

Morris writes:

For all the talk of West Coast offenses, the invention of the pro formation, the wildcat, 5-wide sets, the rise of the pass-catching tight-end, Bill Walsh, the Greatest Show On Turf, and the general recognition that passing, passing and more passing is the best way to score in football, half the improvement in scoring in the past 50-plus years of NFL history has come solely from field-goal kickers kicking more accurately.

One interesting aspect that Morris discovered was that kickers have been getting better at a very steady rate, especially after adjustments for obvious factors such as changing distance of attempts and so forth. Strikingly, the radical change in kicking style from straight-ahead to soccer-style that began in the mid-60s and was over by the 80s doesn’t show up as a distinct event. Instead, it’s just one of the many improvements (e.g., having the punter become the specialist holder for the kicker, placekicking summer camps for youths, etc.) that contribute to steady improvement.

Morris writes:

When I showed this chart to a friend of mine who’s a philosophy Ph.D., he said: “It’s like the Hacker Gods got lazy and just set a constant Kicker Improvement parameter throughout the universe.” The great thing about this is that since the improvement in kicking has been almost perfectly linear, we can treat “year” as just another continuous variable, allowing us to generalize the model to any kick in any situation at any point in NFL history. …

So how accurate is this thing? To be honest, in all my years of building models, I’ve never seen anything like it.

This is reminiscent of the concept of the “learning curve” that, according to my MBA classes in the early 1980s, was first noticed for the steadily falling cost of Henry Ford’s Model Ts:

 

With Model T’s, the crucial factor wasn’t time, but cumulative numbers built. Every doubling cut costs 15%. The second Model T cost 85% as much as the first, the 4th cost 85% as much as the 2nd, and so on over many year. The famous Moore’s Law for Intel computer chips is similar.

(It’s not clear, by the way, if this is still happening for Intel CPU chips. I have a 3 year old Macbook Air laptop, and it seems about 95% as good as the current MacBook Airs, largely due to Intel not really improving their CPUs much lately. Intel has run into similar hitches in the past and gotten around them, although they had more competition from AMD then.)

Neither famous learning curve depended upon any single breakthrough, even the introduction of the moving assembly line at Ford around 1914. Or another way to look at is that big changes like the moving assembly line and soccer style kicking opened up higher levels of productivity that allowed the process of improvement to continue for years longer.

For example, early soccer style kickers in American pro football weren’t obvious improvements over straight-ahead kickers. Indeed, straight-ahead kicking George Blanda was MVP in 1970 (he was also a relief QB) and straight-ahead kicking Mark Moseley was MVP in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Here’s an interesting 1967 Sports Illustrated article in which they took two NFL placekickers to England to compete at field goal kicking against soccer legend Bobby Charlton and a pro rugby player. The straight-ahead kicking rugby player was almost as good as the NFL kickers, while Charlton wasn’t competitive at the very long kicks, probably because he was smaller and was used to kicking under the crossbar, not over.

But Norwegian ski-jumper Jan Stenerud, in a pro football career from 1967-1979, demonstrated that soccer-style was superior and everybody in the NFL has been a soccer style kicker for maybe three decades now.

(Here’s a good history of the evolution of placekicking on Reddit by the grandson of Don Chandler, who kicked in six Super Bowls or NFL championship games, including the famous 1958 overtime game.)

Morris writes:

Side note, I’ve also looked at whether kicking improvement has been a result of kickers who are new to the league being better than older kickers, or of older kickers getting better themselves. The answer is both.

A lot of improvements in sports techniques are picked up on quickly by professionals. After all they’ve got the time, money, and motivation to stay on top. For example, in golf, the sand wedge, a specialty club for escaping from sand traps, was invented by top golf pro Gene Sarazen in his home workshop in 1931. He used it to win the U.S. and British Opens in 1932 and it quickly spread to other pros and then to amateurs.

Soccer-style kicking, however, was a radical change in technique in that I don’t believe any straight ahead kicker converted to soccer style during his NFL career. (I could be wrong about this, though.) But soccer-style was apparently too big of a change for somebody who was pretty good already to risk changing to.

Clearly, it’s time for rule changes to make kicking a field goal more of a big deal and missing a field goal less of big deal.

 
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  1. In the olden days, kickers were also real football players. Lou Groza of the Browns was an example. With the advent of the 2-platoon system, specialization allowed players to get bigger and fatter, and kicking became a specialization in the extreme. Today, kickers have nothing to do but kick and spend most of their time either lolling on the sidelines or kicking into a net,i.e usually having very little to do with playing football. Was it Pete Gogolak who notoriously shouted in a game,”I kick a touchdown”?

    • Replies: @yaqub the mad scientist
    It would be fascinating to see a Sammy Baugh again who could do multiple positions. Doubt it will happen.
    , @Brando4
    Garo Yepremian of the Miami Dolphins is the one who said that...
  2. Steroids?

    • Replies: @Boomstick
    The improvement predates steroid use. Maybe it helped extend the trend.
  3. “Clearly, it’s time for rule changes to make kicking a field goal more of a big deal and missing a field goal less of big deal.”

    Less of a big deal? Somehow I don’t think that Scott Norwood will feel any better hearing this.

    Wide right is still wide right.

    Whereas Adam Viniteri made two crucial SB FGs to win. Straight center works best especially with the game on the line.

    • Replies: @snorlax
    They could change the rule back to the opposing team taking possession at the line of scrimmage rather than at the spot of the kick.
  4. @jack
    In the olden days, kickers were also real football players. Lou Groza of the Browns was an example. With the advent of the 2-platoon system, specialization allowed players to get bigger and fatter, and kicking became a specialization in the extreme. Today, kickers have nothing to do but kick and spend most of their time either lolling on the sidelines or kicking into a net,i.e usually having very little to do with playing football. Was it Pete Gogolak who notoriously shouted in a game,"I kick a touchdown"?

    It would be fascinating to see a Sammy Baugh again who could do multiple positions. Doubt it will happen.

  5. >Clearly, it’s time for rule changes to make kicking a field goal more of a big deal and missing a field goal less of big deal.<

    fewer players?

  6. I would think this improvement should be factored into statistical rankings of quarterbacks. I mean, given the odds differntial, in the days of Namath, a QB was likely to get more attempts at 4th and 5s from the 35 than a Manning. This would give Namath or his offense more yards and TDs than his 21st century cohorts whose coaches would be taking the easy points.

    Along these lines, your goal post narrowing would lead to not only more heroic kickers (wow he made it!) but also more heros in general on 4th and something.

  7. @jack
    In the olden days, kickers were also real football players. Lou Groza of the Browns was an example. With the advent of the 2-platoon system, specialization allowed players to get bigger and fatter, and kicking became a specialization in the extreme. Today, kickers have nothing to do but kick and spend most of their time either lolling on the sidelines or kicking into a net,i.e usually having very little to do with playing football. Was it Pete Gogolak who notoriously shouted in a game,"I kick a touchdown"?

    Garo Yepremian of the Miami Dolphins is the one who said that…

  8. Better shoes

    “Dempsey is most widely known for kicking a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19–17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.[1] Prior to 1974 the goal posts in the NFL were on the goal lines instead of the end lines. With time running out in the game, the Saints attempted a field goal with holder Joe Scarpati spotting at the Saints’ own 37-yard line. The snap from Jackie Burkett was good, and Dempsey nailed the field goal with a couple of feet to spare. The win was one of only two for the Saints in that dismal season.[2]

    With the kick, Dempsey broke Bert Rechichar’s NFL record for longest field goal by seven yards. That record was equaled by Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, and David Akers in 2012. On December 8, 2013, Matt Prater topped Dempsey’s mark by hitting a 64-yard field goal.

    Dempsey’s special kicking shoe
    Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. This generated controversy about whether such a shoe gave a player an unfair advantage. When reporters would ask him if he thought it was unfair, he said “Unfair eh? How ’bout you try kickin’ a 63 yard field goal to win it with 2 seconds left an’ yer wearin’ a square shoe, oh, yeah and no toes either.”” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dempsey

    The shoe advantage also changed the outcome of the Civil War.

    • Replies: @ben tillman
    The Tom Dempsey 63-yarder was supposedly due to the coaching staff misunderstanding which 45-yard line the Saints were on. They thought Dempsey would be trying a 52-yarder.
    , @Brutusale
    Alex Karras was quoted in George Plympton's book, Mad Ducks and Bears, as saying that he didn't even bother to rush for the block, but just stood up and laughed at the ridiculousness of Dempsey's attempt. I guess he wasn't laughing after the game.

    That's another feather in Belichick's hat; he "wasted" a 4th round pick on Stephen Gotskowski, league leader in scoring the past 3 years and the all-time NFL leader in points per game. Vinatieri who?
  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Tom Brady’s idol Joe Montana points finger at Patriots Quarterback and says ‘it was pretty obvious who deflated the balls’”

    “Hall of fame Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers says Tom Brady is responsible for the Deflategate scandal
    The Patriots are accused of intentionally under-inflating the footballs they used in their AFC championship game win over the Indianapolis Colts
    ‘If I ever want a ball a certain way, I don’t do it myself. So, somebody did it for him,’ said Montana on Thursday”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2934716/Tom-Brady-s-idol-Joe-Montana-points-finger-Patriots-Quarterback-says-pretty-obvious-deflated-balls.html

    Hall of fame Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers has no doubt in his mind that patriots quarterback Tom Brady is responsible for the Deflategate scandal.

    ‘If I ever want a ball a certain way, I don’t do it myself. So, somebody did it for him,’ said Montana on Thursday.

    ‘But I don’t know why everybody is making a big deal out of trying to figure out who did it. It’s pretty simple.If it was done, it was done for a reason. There is only one guy that does it. Nobody else cares what the ball feels like,’ he added.

    Joe Montana said that just because Tom Brady may not have physically touched the footballs for him, someone else could have done it.

  10. “Dropkick me Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life” is an alt-country song I recall from my time in Austin in the early 70s. Whatever its merits as theology, I believe the return of the dropkick–incented by, say, a 1 or 2 point advantage over the standard held field goal holds the key to this problem. (Also counterbalances any idea of altering the shape/inflation of the ball to even further enhance the passing game. )

  11. Solution.

    You could narrow the goal posts but nice soft mushy balls that are Tom Brady approved would work just as well. Easier to catch balls means more points means more crazy one handed catches means better ratings means happier billionaire owners and we know that’s why NFL rules get changed.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Yeah, what's the appeal of guys dropping balls? Softer footballs would be better for receivers and worse for placekickers and punters. So, more going for it on 4th down. If the punters lose a few yards, then bring in more creative Australian Rules punters.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Yeah, what's the appeal of guys dropping balls? Softer footballs would be better for receivers and worse for placekickers and punters. So, more going for it on 4th down. If the punters lose a few yards, then bring in more creative Australian Rules punters.
  12. Intel not really improving their CPUs much lately

    Clock speed has gotten pretty hard to improve, so they’ve been adding more cores that can run in parallel.

    Here’s a performance chart showing a CPU that cost me about $300 in 2007 (Core 2 Duo E6600) with several others that cost about $300 now:

    http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core2+Duo+E6600+%40+2.40GHz&id=912

    The best way to make your desktop software run faster, however, is to use a flash drive rather than a hard drive. Windows 7 load time goes from 2 minutes to 15 seconds. Unfortunately it is hard to find a low or mid-range desktop with a flash drive rather than a hard drive. You have to either put it in yourself, or custom order one.

    The very quick way to improve your computer’s speed is to search for and run msconfig, then go to the “startup” tab, and then unclick any third party software you don’t need running all the time.

  13. OT: great Gary Brecher (War Nerd) piece on muslims, Boko Haram vs Africans: http://pando.com/2015/01/28/the-war-nerd-boko-haram-and-the-demon-consensus

  14. Jan Stenerud is the only pure place kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He certainly WAS the best kicker in the NFL in his day, but is he the greatest kicker of all time? Far from it. There have been dozens of better kickers. But is there any chance that say… Jason Hanson or Morten Andersen will be elected to the Hall of Fame? I think not. There are so many great kickers today and they can’t all get in. Which means that, in all likelihood, none of them will.

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He’s not even the best Raider punter ever. But Shane Lechler probably won’t get in. Neither will Rohn Stark, whose numbers are superior.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    So change the rules so that field goal kicking is hard enough that somebody else will get into the Hall of Fame. Field goal kicking at present is too close to the ceiling of 100% accuracy for kickers to get famous or rich.
    , @snorlax
    Adam Vinatieri will get into the HoF.
    , @ben tillman

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He’s not even the best Raider punter ever.
     
    Yeah, Lechler the former Aggie is a great punter. From another perspective, it's also questionable whether Guy is the best punter from his alma mater. The great Jerrel Wilson was at Southern Miss a few years before Guy.
  15. Have the accuracy improvements resulted in a greater percentage of the total points scored by kicking?

    One would think that better kicking would make that happen in a rational world. 4th down on the 20 should result in more kicks being made, and they’d probably kick under both the old accuracy standards and the new, resulting in a greater percentage of total points being made by kickers. The better accuracy at extended ranges should also increase the points scored by kickers.

    If it’s the same as before that might indicate underutilization of place kicking. That or the efficiency of the standard offense has increased by a similar amount, and I don’t know if that’s true.

  16. @Anonymous
    Steroids?

    The improvement predates steroid use. Maybe it helped extend the trend.

  17. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "Clearly, it’s time for rule changes to make kicking a field goal more of a big deal and missing a field goal less of big deal."

    Less of a big deal? Somehow I don't think that Scott Norwood will feel any better hearing this.

    Wide right is still wide right.

    Whereas Adam Viniteri made two crucial SB FGs to win. Straight center works best especially with the game on the line.

    They could change the rule back to the opposing team taking possession at the line of scrimmage rather than at the spot of the kick.

  18. Moore’s law actually refers to the number of transistors. In the case of modern CPUs this is mostly being done by more cores per CPU, which may let you run more programs, but not necessarily a single program faster. Plus better 3D graphics on the system as a whole.

    They’re also optimizing for other things, such as power consumption. Most standard applications have plenty of CPU power, and users of something like a MacBook Air want better battery life and a quiet machine more than CPU cycles that they won’t use.

    Heavy CPU tasks are mostly on the cloud, server-side. You don’t need to run Siri on your iPhone–the voice command is shipped off to a big data center where the voice recognition is done and the data looked up, then returned to the iPhone.

  19. The most curious aspect of American football to foreign audiences is the degree of specialization of roles – something caused by the extremely low levels of improvisation, which means each play is pre-planned. Other forms of football – soccer, rugby, Australian Rules, Gaelic football etc – require players to be able to attack and defend, improvise and adapt.
    Having a kicker, and a punter, who do nothing but those roles is bizarre. A way to cut down on the ever-increasing share of point-scoring achieved by field goals, and also reducing the excess amount of specialization would be to eliminate kickers. Make a rule that the kicker must have been on the field during the previous play. Teams might be tempted to still employ specialist kickers and bring them on for third down as a receiver, but that would be a risk that would add to the intrigue of the game.

  20. @astorian
    Jan Stenerud is the only pure place kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He certainly WAS the best kicker in the NFL in his day, but is he the greatest kicker of all time? Far from it. There have been dozens of better kickers. But is there any chance that say... Jason Hanson or Morten Andersen will be elected to the Hall of Fame? I think not. There are so many great kickers today and they can't all get in. Which means that, in all likelihood, none of them will.

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He's not even the best Raider punter ever. But Shane Lechler probably won't get in. Neither will Rohn Stark, whose numbers are superior.

    So change the rules so that field goal kicking is hard enough that somebody else will get into the Hall of Fame. Field goal kicking at present is too close to the ceiling of 100% accuracy for kickers to get famous or rich.

  21. @Dave Chamberlin
    Solution.

    You could narrow the goal posts but nice soft mushy balls that are Tom Brady approved would work just as well. Easier to catch balls means more points means more crazy one handed catches means better ratings means happier billionaire owners and we know that's why NFL rules get changed.

    Yeah, what’s the appeal of guys dropping balls? Softer footballs would be better for receivers and worse for placekickers and punters. So, more going for it on 4th down. If the punters lose a few yards, then bring in more creative Australian Rules punters.

  22. @Dave Chamberlin
    Solution.

    You could narrow the goal posts but nice soft mushy balls that are Tom Brady approved would work just as well. Easier to catch balls means more points means more crazy one handed catches means better ratings means happier billionaire owners and we know that's why NFL rules get changed.

    Yeah, what’s the appeal of guys dropping balls? Softer footballs would be better for receivers and worse for placekickers and punters. So, more going for it on 4th down. If the punters lose a few yards, then bring in more creative Australian Rules punters.

  23. This honestly reads like a reprint.

  24. MLK statue has nothing on this.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    What the hell is that statue?
  25. So, according to those graphs in this post, if you practice something new for 10,000 hours, then your practicing it double – for 20,000 hours – will gain you a 15% performance increase.

    Won’t Malcolm Gladwell be ever so pleased?

    • Replies: @rustbeltreader
    You make your own luck, Gig. You know what makes a good loser? Practice.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway
    Kicks.
    http://tinyurl.com/lmzfdzb
  26. @astorian
    Jan Stenerud is the only pure place kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He certainly WAS the best kicker in the NFL in his day, but is he the greatest kicker of all time? Far from it. There have been dozens of better kickers. But is there any chance that say... Jason Hanson or Morten Andersen will be elected to the Hall of Fame? I think not. There are so many great kickers today and they can't all get in. Which means that, in all likelihood, none of them will.

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He's not even the best Raider punter ever. But Shane Lechler probably won't get in. Neither will Rohn Stark, whose numbers are superior.

    Adam Vinatieri will get into the HoF.

    • Replies: @astorian
    Adam Vinatieri has an outside chance at the Hall of Fame, but not because he's the best kicker of his era. He has a shot because he made two last-second field goals in the Super Bowl.

    Of course, the Pats wouldn't have needed his last second kick against the Panthers if Vinatieri hadn't missed to easy field goals earlier in the game.
  27. Probably more indoor stadiums today helps.

  28. @Auntie Analogue
    So, according to those graphs in this post, if you practice something new for 10,000 hours, then your practicing it double - for 20,000 hours - will gain you a 15% performance increase.

    Won't Malcolm Gladwell be ever so pleased?

    You make your own luck, Gig. You know what makes a good loser? Practice.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway
    Kicks.
    http://tinyurl.com/lmzfdzb

  29. @Priss Factor
    MLK statue has nothing on this.

    http://www.parislike.com/ckfinder/userfiles/images/Statue_of_young_Mao_Zedong_01.jpg

    http://www.parislike.com/ckfinder/userfiles/images/Statue_of_young_Mao_Zedong_02.jpg

    What the hell is that statue?

  30. So what is the deal with punting?

    I only thought about it because I someone posted something about Sammy Baugh, and I think he still has the all time record for average yards per punt in a single season, after about 70 years.

    As phenomenal an athlete as he was, I always figured it had something to do with the ball. Wasn’t it more round as opposed to oval back then?

    But if field goal kicking has improved, shouldn’t punting have too? Doesn’t seem like that has really changed much since Guy was punting.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar

    But if field goal kicking has improved, shouldn’t punting have too? Doesn’t seem like that has really changed much since Guy was punting.

     

    The punter on the 15-1 team gets a lot less practice than the one on the 1-15 club. So, if the best teams get the best punters, punting stats should compress, if not cancel each other out.
  31. Does anyone remember an old time SNL skit where the NFL kickers did a music video in the tradition of the Super Bowl Shuffle? The chorus lyrics were something like “We are kickers we kick ball we play with ball we kick the ball”. Anyway, I can’t seem to find a working link anywhere, but I remember it being hilarious.

  32. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Maybe since it is rare these days that a field goal kicker misses, and few will make it into the Hall of Fame, they should have an alternative recognition of performance? Maybe for kickers they can have a Hall of Shame for those kickers that shank a field goal to not win a game, especially in the playoffs or the SuperBowl? A Razzie for kickers.

  33. I would think this improvement should be factored into statistical rankings of quarterbacks. I mean, given the odds differntial, in the days of Namath, a QB was likely to get more attempts at 4th and 5s from the 35 than a Manning.

    You know what else should be factored in, the fact that DBs can no longer touch receivers, the fact that nobody can bash a receiver to knock the ball lose if he is “defenseless”, the fact that quarterbacks are almost off limits in the pocket, the fact that defensive linemen can’t use the techniques they did in the past, that offensive linemen can use their hands, that a 200 yard passing day was actually quite good for a quarterback in those days where running was more important,…….

    Given all the rule changes we have today, I’ll take Joe Namath and Sonny Jurgensen over any of the guys we have today.

  34. @rustbeltreader
    Better shoes

    "Dempsey is most widely known for kicking a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19–17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.[1] Prior to 1974 the goal posts in the NFL were on the goal lines instead of the end lines. With time running out in the game, the Saints attempted a field goal with holder Joe Scarpati spotting at the Saints' own 37-yard line. The snap from Jackie Burkett was good, and Dempsey nailed the field goal with a couple of feet to spare. The win was one of only two for the Saints in that dismal season.[2]

    With the kick, Dempsey broke Bert Rechichar's NFL record for longest field goal by seven yards. That record was equaled by Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, and David Akers in 2012. On December 8, 2013, Matt Prater topped Dempsey's mark by hitting a 64-yard field goal.


    Dempsey's special kicking shoe
    Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. This generated controversy about whether such a shoe gave a player an unfair advantage. When reporters would ask him if he thought it was unfair, he said "Unfair eh? How 'bout you try kickin' a 63 yard field goal to win it with 2 seconds left an' yer wearin' a square shoe, oh, yeah and no toes either."" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dempsey

    The shoe advantage also changed the outcome of the Civil War.

    The Tom Dempsey 63-yarder was supposedly due to the coaching staff misunderstanding which 45-yard line the Saints were on. They thought Dempsey would be trying a 52-yarder.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
    I believe that was the last play of the game when Dempsey made that kick. I doubt the coaches thought a hail mary with the ball 70 yards in the air was a better shot.
  35. @astorian
    Jan Stenerud is the only pure place kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He certainly WAS the best kicker in the NFL in his day, but is he the greatest kicker of all time? Far from it. There have been dozens of better kickers. But is there any chance that say... Jason Hanson or Morten Andersen will be elected to the Hall of Fame? I think not. There are so many great kickers today and they can't all get in. Which means that, in all likelihood, none of them will.

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He's not even the best Raider punter ever. But Shane Lechler probably won't get in. Neither will Rohn Stark, whose numbers are superior.

    Same with punters. Ray Guy finally got in. But is he the best punter ever? Heck no! He’s not even the best Raider punter ever.

    Yeah, Lechler the former Aggie is a great punter. From another perspective, it’s also questionable whether Guy is the best punter from his alma mater. The great Jerrel Wilson was at Southern Miss a few years before Guy.

  36. The great thing about this is that since the improvement in kicking has been almost perfectly linear, we can treat “year” as just another continuous variable

    Dumb. And shoe size has a high r^2 with IQ in elementary school students.

    Year is obviously a proxy for kicking improvement, but it doesn’t “explain” the improvement.

  37. Well, if you really wanted to put the ‘foot’ back in football a “target” scheme could be deployed on the goal posts and points awarded based on distance of and accuracy of kick. Have a bulls eye that would award six points if it is hit from 50 plus yards, 5 points from 40 yards and so on. Reducing the score on very short field goals inside the red zone to 1 or 2 points might be useful as it might encourage teams to eschew scoring and just try to pin the other team inside the ten yard line.

  38. @rustbeltreader
    Better shoes

    "Dempsey is most widely known for kicking a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19–17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.[1] Prior to 1974 the goal posts in the NFL were on the goal lines instead of the end lines. With time running out in the game, the Saints attempted a field goal with holder Joe Scarpati spotting at the Saints' own 37-yard line. The snap from Jackie Burkett was good, and Dempsey nailed the field goal with a couple of feet to spare. The win was one of only two for the Saints in that dismal season.[2]

    With the kick, Dempsey broke Bert Rechichar's NFL record for longest field goal by seven yards. That record was equaled by Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, and David Akers in 2012. On December 8, 2013, Matt Prater topped Dempsey's mark by hitting a 64-yard field goal.


    Dempsey's special kicking shoe
    Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. This generated controversy about whether such a shoe gave a player an unfair advantage. When reporters would ask him if he thought it was unfair, he said "Unfair eh? How 'bout you try kickin' a 63 yard field goal to win it with 2 seconds left an' yer wearin' a square shoe, oh, yeah and no toes either."" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dempsey

    The shoe advantage also changed the outcome of the Civil War.

    Alex Karras was quoted in George Plympton’s book, Mad Ducks and Bears, as saying that he didn’t even bother to rush for the block, but just stood up and laughed at the ridiculousness of Dempsey’s attempt. I guess he wasn’t laughing after the game.

    That’s another feather in Belichick’s hat; he “wasted” a 4th round pick on Stephen Gotskowski, league leader in scoring the past 3 years and the all-time NFL leader in points per game. Vinatieri who?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The NY Giants used a 3rd round pick to get kicker Bob Timberlake around 1966. He then went 1 for 15 as a rookie and that was the end of his NFL career.
  39. OT: USA Today, 01/31/15 – More young adults may leave nest in spark for economy

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/01/31/household-formation-maybe-rising/22550957/

    …Ashley Racine bought a $142,000, three-bedroom ranch house in January in Wendell, N.C., after living with her grandmother for five years so she could save money and work off debt…

    To buy the house, Racine qualified for an Agriculture Department loan that provided 100% financing and requires a $950-a-month mortgage payment, about what she would have paid to rent an area apartment. “I’m a manager now,” she says. “I should have something to show for it.”…

  40. @ben tillman
    The Tom Dempsey 63-yarder was supposedly due to the coaching staff misunderstanding which 45-yard line the Saints were on. They thought Dempsey would be trying a 52-yarder.

    I believe that was the last play of the game when Dempsey made that kick. I doubt the coaches thought a hail mary with the ball 70 yards in the air was a better shot.

  41. @snorlax
    Adam Vinatieri will get into the HoF.

    Adam Vinatieri has an outside chance at the Hall of Fame, but not because he’s the best kicker of his era. He has a shot because he made two last-second field goals in the Super Bowl.

    Of course, the Pats wouldn’t have needed his last second kick against the Panthers if Vinatieri hadn’t missed to easy field goals earlier in the game.

  42. OT, todays LAT has a series of stories on how racist and White privelege American Sniper is compared to Stop Loss or Valley of Elah. A main compaint? That the Taliban aren’t humanized and “low and working class” White males lionized.

    In the Gay Superbowl aka Oscars Sniper will win almost nothing.

  43. “largely due to Intel not really improving their CPUs much lately. Intel has run into similar hitches in the past and gotten around them”

    CPU makers can no longer double the clock speeds because they’re butting up against the laws of physics. Twenty years ago it was a question of improving chip fabrication – the 386/25MHz became a 486/66, the Pentium ended up around 300MHz, Pentium 2 around 1GHz, now I think they’re up to 3.5GHz. The Pentium 4F of 2004 could be clocked at 3.6GHz according to the link below, so clock speeds have stalled and multiprocessors (or optical computing, or quantum computing or next big thing computing) are the way to increase power.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_microprocessors

    At 3Ghz an electrical signal travelling at light speed can only get 10cm down a wire in one clock cycle – and it won’t be travelling at light speed.

    http://lofi.forum.physorg.com/Speed-of-Light-and-Electricity_4992.html

  44. Want to improve the game? Just require the QB punt the ball on 4th down.

  45. It certainly appears that something is out of whack regarding the reward to effort in field goal kicking. Maybe some of this is the lack of required commitment. Make the team commit to a touchdown – no field goals after a team crosses the twenty. Also no place-held PATs. Drop-kicked PATs or two-point conversions only.

  46. @Brutusale
    Alex Karras was quoted in George Plympton's book, Mad Ducks and Bears, as saying that he didn't even bother to rush for the block, but just stood up and laughed at the ridiculousness of Dempsey's attempt. I guess he wasn't laughing after the game.

    That's another feather in Belichick's hat; he "wasted" a 4th round pick on Stephen Gotskowski, league leader in scoring the past 3 years and the all-time NFL leader in points per game. Vinatieri who?

    The NY Giants used a 3rd round pick to get kicker Bob Timberlake around 1966. He then went 1 for 15 as a rookie and that was the end of his NFL career.

  47. What kickers are doing now is nothing short of remarkable. I think specialization and position-specific training are most responsible–professional kickers are leveraging every advantage they have.

    I disagree that kicking should be harder–why punish a position for steadily improving? If anything, there are things the league could do to make blocking a kick easier (for instance no defender can lineup over the long snapper). Also, dome stadiums and turf fields make conditions for kicking easier (the grass field at a windy, open-air stadium in Pittsburg is the toughest to kick at). Football should be played outside, on real grass.

  48. @Sunbeam
    So what is the deal with punting?

    I only thought about it because I someone posted something about Sammy Baugh, and I think he still has the all time record for average yards per punt in a single season, after about 70 years.

    As phenomenal an athlete as he was, I always figured it had something to do with the ball. Wasn't it more round as opposed to oval back then?

    But if field goal kicking has improved, shouldn't punting have too? Doesn't seem like that has really changed much since Guy was punting.

    But if field goal kicking has improved, shouldn’t punting have too? Doesn’t seem like that has really changed much since Guy was punting.

    The punter on the 15-1 team gets a lot less practice than the one on the 1-15 club. So, if the best teams get the best punters, punting stats should compress, if not cancel each other out.

  49. Steve, the growth of youth soccer in the US means that a lot more boys grow up kicking a ball at a target. Some of those kids eventually find their way into American football. The mechanics of kicking for distance and accuracy are ingrained in these kids, so with some special coaching they can easily transfer their skills.

    It’s not unusual these days to see high school kickers who are also soccer players. My local high school most recently had a kicker who not only played on the varsity soccer team; his father was a former NFL wide receiver.

    Consider Josh Lambo, the placekicker at Texas A&M, who was part of US Soccer’s residency program in Bradenton, Fla., and played for the US in the U20 World Cup. He actually played in MLS as a goalkeeper before giving it up and enrolling at A&M.

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