Graham Cut – A Kicker’s Lament

Washington Commanders

As Redskins Nation runs rampant with relief over the cutting of Shayne Graham after just a one game tryout, it seemed prudent to look at the life of a kicker, and the obstacles that stand before them.

Shayne Graham stunk on Friday night. There isn’t any ifs, ands, or buts about it, the guy mailed in a groaner. For his efforts, he was immediately let go by the Washington Redskins. The third most accurate kicker in NFL history, got a ONE game tryout. So goes the life of an NFL kicker. It doesn’t matter what you’ve ever done, only what you’ve done lately. Further to that, while every other positional battle on the team likely gets the good grace of accepting that cohesiveness may play a role in their development, a kicker apparently does not. Well, Shayne Graham certainly did not in this instance.

I remember talking to Shaun Suisham about the importance of rhythm and timing for a kicker. I remember him telling me that ALL NFL kickers can kick 50-yarders with relative ease on the practice field, but that during a game, even a kicker needed to learn the rhythm of the other players directly involved in the kick – the snapper – the holder. In Graham’s instance, he can’t have worked much with the holder, Sav Rocca only cleared customs a week ago. I understand that to a lay observer, all that’s important to a snap is that it gets put down on a spot, and with the laces turned. If that happens, most observers would consider the rest to be on the kicker – and it is – but that doesn’t mean that the cadence, timing, and feel of the snap and hold, don’t have a drastic effect on the kicker’s effort.

Ironically, Suisham lined up against the Redskins on Friday night. After losing some confidence, and being run out of Washington in 2008 – he attempted and failed in a return to Dallas, and then caught on mid-season with the Steelers last year. He finished a half-season (7 games) with a 14 for 15 field goal record, with a longest from 48.

I fully accept that NFL kickers can be fragile, in that their confidence plays more of a role on their performance than any other NFL position. All the more reason to be constantly surprised that the fragility of that confidence and ego, isn’t pandered to a little more.

We’ll never know if Shayne Graham could have been the answer to the Redskins’ long time kicking problems – we didn’t really give him a chance to get a fair shot. People will be up in arms if he goes on to play somewhere else, and play well, while the Redskins perennial kicking woes continue. Truth is, a lack of patience and maybe even respect, are responsible for the rash decision.

I say respect only because kickers don’t get any. Everyone likes to poke fun at the kickers and remark things like, ‘they’re not real football players.’ Well you know what? Not having a kicking solution in Washington for ANY extended period in the last two decades, SURE has caused a lot of grief for something so insignificant and unworthy of the respect of other positions.

These ‘not real football players’ certainly have a real effect on a lot of NFL games – good and bad.

Just this week it was announced that both kickers would get a chance to kick against the Steelers, and it was with the added caveat that there could be a coin flip to see how goes first. A coin flip? Really? I don’t care if that’s the cavalier attitude with which you’re actually going to make that decision, but voicing that to the press, seems disrespectful at best. Would you tell Redskins Nation that you were going to flip a coin to see who started – John Beck or Rex Grossman? I don’t think so. It would potentially ruffle feathers, and affect the outcome.

So Shayne Graham now finds himself unemployed, mid-way through an NFL preseason. Not only did he not get much of a shot but to prospective employers, his latest body of work would appear to be garbage. If other organizations look at the kicker position with as much of a laissez faire attitude as the Redskins seem to, he could be unemployed for a while.

But he won’t be; because to some NFL organization, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history is worthy of more than a one game tryout.

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