11 Nov 2006
The idea behind this column is simple: NFL kickers are more consistent kicking off than they are kicking field goals. But until I did the research for this article, I had no idea just how dramatic the difference really is.
Measuring every kicker from 1999-2005 who had at least 10 field goal attempts in two consecutive years, the year-to-year correlation of field goal percentage is .03. POINT ZERO THREE!!! That sure explains why the KUBIAK kicker variables are almost all based on team offense. The measures we use at FO, which compare each field goal to the average from that distance, aren't much better: the correlation there is .08.
On the other hand, the year-to-year correlation of average kickoff distance -- same time period, same minimum of 10 kickoffs -- is .60. That makes average kickoff distance one of the most predictable individual stats in the entire NFL, at any position. And sure, some of these players are switching teams and home stadiums from one year to the next, but that affects field goals and kickoffs equally.
I'm sure that some kickers truly are better at field goals than others, but you would need to look at a lot of years of data to tell who those guys were. So isn't it better to spend your money -- or a fourth-round pick -- on a guy who you know can boom kickoffs? And if field-goal percentage one year does nothing to predict field-goal percentage the next year, what about first half vs. second half? Should field goals just be removed from DVOA, like fumble luck? Clearly I've got some more work to do on this.
Click the comments for some more fun data.
59 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2010, 1:35pm by Jameszeee
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?