Carlson's got his C.O.C.K.-U.P.

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jun 17, 2007



Nick Kaeding and Robbie Gould made the
Pro Bowl. But Carolina's John Kasay
was the best kicker in football last year.
 
 
U.K. TV wonderboy and Cold Hard Football Facts contributor

Two kickers made their first appearances in the Pro Bowl this year, and certainly before the playoffs started there weren't many discouraging words heard from the "pundit" herd about those choices. 
 
One was San Diego's Nick Kaeding. The other was Chicago's Robbie Gould.
 
Kaeding missed only three field goals for the Chargers, had consistently good kickoffs (remember, in 2006, San Diego actually wasted a draft pick on a college kickoff specialist) and hit a career-long boot of 54 yards. 
 
That was some coincidence, because that was exactly the distance coach Marty Schottenheimer asked him to reach to save San Diego's season (and, it turns out, Schottenheimer's job) against New England in the divisional playoffs. When the last-second kick missed the mark, the Chargers lost a chance to host Indy in the AFC title game. And Schotzy soon lost his job to – of all people – Norv Turner despite leading the Chargers to the best mark in franchise history (14-2).
 
Of course, Schotzy deserves some blame for the playoff loss: Early in the game, he passed on letting the sure-footed Kaeding try a first-quarter kick from 48 yards on 4th and 11. He instead opted to go for it. San Diego gave up a crucial sack which led to Stephen Gostkowski's 50 yarder and New England's first three points.

Chicago's Gould, meanwhile, got off to a fantastic start – like everyone in Chicago last year – hitting his first 24 kicks before cooling off dramatically on national TV, against, you guessed it, the Patriots. But he wound up 32 for 36 on the season, and in Chicago's first playoff appearance won the game in overtime with a 49-plus-yarder that played the wind perfectly, curving right to left through the uprights like a Bert Blyleven yakker.

Playoff stories are what people remember best, but anecdotal evidence doesn't penetrate very far into the beer-soggy brains of the trolls here at Cold, Hard Football Facts. Instead, we prefer to look at the data, as calibrated by our own simple measure of kickers, called C.O.C.K.-U.P.
 
It stands for Carlson's Original Calibration for Kickers-Unscientific Program and with our C.O.C.K.-U.P. we say that the voters sent the wrong guys to Hawaii.

A quick reminder of how your old C.O.C.K.-U.P. works:
  • For every field goal made from inside the 40, a kicker gets one point, but he loses three for a miss. 
  • Between 40 and 49, it's two for a make and minus two for a miss. 
  • Hit from 50 or beyond and it's worth three, while a miss costs a kicker only one. 
To allow for kickers who get more opportunities, say because their team is quarterbacked by Rex Grossman, we can fine tune it by dividing the C.O.C.K.-U.P. total by the number of kicks attempted. This gives us C.O.C.K-U.P. Per Attempt, or C.O.C.K.-U.pP.A.

Sure it's not perfect. It doesn't factor in kickoff effectiveness, weather conditions, pressure situations, a snap or hold being Romo'd, or protection breaking down and leading to a block. But it doesn't penalize kickers whose teams ask them to try and make long kicks, and it doesn't over-reward those whose teams require more short kicks.
 
AFC LEADERS
So what does our C.O.C.K.-U.P. tell us about the AFC?  Here's how the leading contenders stack up. And, as you'll see, Nate Kaeding is fifth of five:

TOP AFC KICKERS in 2006
Player
Team
Kicks
Under 40 (pts.)
40 to 49 (pts.)
50-plus (pts.)
CU*
CU PA**
Lindell
Buffalo
25
13/13 (13)
8/10 (12)
2/2 (6)
31
1.24
Elam
Denver
29
 20/20 (20)
6/8 (8)
1/1 (3)
31
1.07
Stover
Baltimore
30
21/22 (18)
6/7 (10)
1/1 (3)
31
1.03
Vinatieri
Indy
28
16/17 (13)
9/10 (16)
0/1 (-1)
28
1.00
Kaeding
SD
29
18/19 (15)
7/9 (10)
1/1 (3)
28
0.97
* CU stands for total C.O.C.K-U.P. points
** CU PA gives us their C.O.C.K.-U.P. per attempt score
 
Although there was a three-way tie in C.O.C.K.-U.P.  ratings of 31, the winner, because he'd attempted substantially fewer kicks, was Buffalo's Rian Lindell.  Since he kicks at sea-level, outdoors, in sometimes wintry conditions, there are no mitigating factors to advance any of the other candidates ahead of his clearly superior C.O.C.K-UpP.A. score.
 
NFC LEADERS
In the NFC Gould, a former construction worker, was the feel-good story. But he too finished fifth in his conference in C.O.C.K-U.P.:
 
TOP NFC KICKERS in 2006
Player
Team
Kicks
Under 40 (pts.)
40 to 49 (pts.)
50-plus (pts.)
CU*
CU PA**
Kasay
Carolina
27
12/12 (12)
8/8 (16)
4/7 (9)
37
1.37
Hanson
Detroit
33
 19/19 (20)
7/8 (12)
3/6 (6)
37
1.12
Wilkins
St. Louis
37
18/18 (18)
11/16 (12)
3/3 (9)
39
1.05
Carney
NO
25
17/18 (14)
5/6 (8)
1/1 (3)
25
1.00
Gould
Chicago
36
20/22 (14)
12/14 (20)
0/0 (0)
34 
0.94
* CU stands for total C.O.C.K-U.P. points
** CU PA gives us their C.O.C.K.-U.P. per attempt score
 
Our surefire C.O.C.K-U.P rewards Kasay's efficiency: he's the only kicker among the top five in each conference who was perfect inside the 50. It doesn't punish his misses; in fact, the average distance of those three misses was 56 yards. Since few people blame a kicker for a miss of that distance, C.O.C.K-U.P doesn't penalize him heavily either. 
 
Sure, Kaeding and Gould had strong seasons – strong enough to be honored as the kicking participants in the Pro Bowl.
 
But the Cold Hard C.O.C.K-U.P says John Kasay was the NFL's best field goal kicker in 2006.

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