Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"It's a free ride when you've already paid..."

Back to the world of irony on Sunday night: less than a month after being featured in a Michael Lewis piece in the NYTimes Magazine on the vagaries of making a career as an NFL kicker, Adam Vinatieri missed two field goals -- including a 29-yarder with less than two minutes remaining in regulation -- that might have given the Colts the win, despite an atrocious effort by Peyton Manning (6 INTs).

As Lewis points out, Vinatieri is not statistically more accurate than other kickers in clutch situations:
The actual number [Vinatieri has made] is 20 out of 25 with the game on the line and a minute or less on the clock (or in overtime). Adam Vinatieri, in other words, is about as likely to make a clutch kick as he is to make an ordinary kick. And he is not all that more likely to make the clutch kick than the ordinarily good N.F.L. kicker. There are virtual unknowns who have a better clutch record: former Bears kicker Paul Edinger went 9 for 9, for instance. There are kickers famous for choking who were roughly as accurate in clutch situations as Vinatieri. (See Mike Vanderjagt.) As Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders, who calculated the figures for me, says: "The sample sizes are too small to make a lot out of them. It's not really an analysis of clutch ability as it is an analysis of clutch history. And what separates Vinatieri is that he has almost half again as many attempts as any other kicker. That, and his clutch kicks are so memorable."
But for any fan of the New England Patriots, Vinatieri will always be identified with the greatest years in Pats history -- the Snow Kick, the 48-yarder to end the Rams' dynastic dreams, and the FGs to win the Carolina and Eagles Super Bowls.

On Sunday night, Vinatieri had no answers, although he took the heat by attempting to answer the reporters' questions. Life for an NFL kicker is painful, as Lewis pointed out. Even for Adam Vinatieri.

No comments: