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Kickers’ records in close games

Posted by Doug on March 19, 2007

Last week I posted coaching records in games decided by three points or less. Commenter "ABW" sparked some interesting discussion in the comments by speculating that teams' records in close games had a lot to do with the performance of the kicker. So let's take a quick look at the data on that.

First, a regression. I looked at all team seasons from 1980--2005 and I used two input variables: (1) the team's field goal percentage (minus the league average field goal percentage) for that season, and (2) the team's record in non-close games for that season, with a "close" game again being imperfectly defined as one which was ultimately decided by three points or less. The output variable is the team's record in close games.

The results:

  • The team's record in non-close games was insignificant, and close enough to zero that it wouldn't have been practically significant even if it had been statistically significant.
  • The team's annual field goal percentage was statistically significant (p=.02), but was fairly small: .27. So if a team could increase their field goal percentage by .10 --- say from .75 to .85, which is a pretty substantial increase --- they could expect to increase their close game winning percentage by .027. That's about one win for every 37 close games played. To summarize: there seems to be a real relationship between kicking accuracy and close game winning percentage, but the magnitude of that effect is very small.
  • The regression had an R^2 of .012. No that's not a typo, it's just a really low R^2. Loosely stated, this means any attempt (well, any simple linear attempt) to predict close game winning percentage from kicking accuracy and general team quality (i.e. non-close game winning percentage) is not going to be noticeably better than twirling a coin.

In case you're curious, here are the league field goal percentages.


Year LgFG%
============
1980 64.2
1981 66.1
1982 68.6
1983 71.6
1984 71.7
1985 72.2
1986 68.6
1987 70.4
1988 71.7
1989 72.5
1990 74.4
1991 73.5
1992 72.6
1993 76.6
1994 78.9
1995 77.4
1996 80.0
1997 78.1
1998 79.6
1999 77.6
2000 79.8
2001 76.4
2002 77.7
2003 79.3
2004 80.9
2005 81.1

Finally, here are the close game records of some kickers. I only have kicking data from 1980--2005, so this will contain partial careers for anyone whose career started before 1980 or ended after 2005. Also, since I don't have game-by-game records for kickers, I've given full credit (or blame) for all the close games in each team season to the kicker who attempted the most field goals for that team in that season. That's going to miscount some games, but it's the best I can do. The list includes all kickers who, according to the estimates detailed above, were involved in 20 or more close games.

If you read the top part of the post, you can probably guess that I don't think this list is worth much, except possibly as a source of fun trivia.


ClsGms CGWin%
==================================
Mark Moseley 21 0.714
Paul Edinger 21 0.714
Adam Vinatieri 38 0.684
Raul Allegre 21 0.667
Dean Biasucci 28 0.643
Kevin Butler 44 0.636
Rich Karlis 33 0.621
Norm Johnson 56 0.607
Olindo Mare 38 0.605
Pete Stoyanovich 45 0.600
Mike Vanderjagt 27 0.593
Jay Feely 23 0.587
Matt Bahr 61 0.582
Steve Christie 55 0.582
Michael Husted 26 0.577
Jeff Jaeger 47 0.574
Gary Anderson 58 0.569
Joe Nedney 37 0.568
Ryan Longwell 32 0.562
Chris Bahr 40 0.550
Fuad Reveiz 33 0.545
Jim Breech 35 0.543
Rafael Septien 24 0.542
Pat Leahy 41 0.537
Scott Norwood 28 0.536
Chris Boniol 29 0.534
Mike Lansford 23 0.522
Mike Cofer 27 0.519
Morten Andersen 97 0.515
Chris Jacke 35 0.514
Chip Lohmiller 34 0.500
David Akers 24 0.500
John Carney 65 0.492
John Hall 43 0.488
Mike Hollis 27 0.481
Doug Brien 27 0.481
Jason Hanson 48 0.479
Greg Davis 36 0.472
Cary Blanchard 34 0.471
David Treadwell 30 0.467
Todd Peterson 43 0.453
Roger Ruzek 20 0.450
Paul McFadden 27 0.444
Tony Zendejas 27 0.444
Martin Gramatica 25 0.440
Al Del Greco 67 0.433
Jan Stenerud 22 0.432
Jason Elam 49 0.429
Ray Wersching 27 0.426
Sebastian Janikowski 26 0.423
Jeff Wilkins 34 0.412
Kris Brown 27 0.407
Mick Luckhurst 21 0.405
John Kasay 55 0.400
Phil Dawson 25 0.400
Tony Franklin 28 0.393
Doug Pelfrey 26 0.385
Nick Lowery 65 0.385
Eddie Murray 64 0.383
Rolf Benirschke 21 0.381
Matt Stover 64 0.352
Donald Igwebuike 24 0.333

This entry was posted on Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 5:34 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.