April 24, 2014

Joe Banner and the assumed departure of Phil Dawson

Phil Dawson knocks in his 300th Field GoalLast week, I did some homework to try and do an article about Joe Banner and if he had to learn a hard lesson about kickers after saying goodbye to David Akers. I assumed that I would look up Akers and his Philly replacement and see a trail of tears that would let me argue that Banner should “learn from his mistakes” and keep Phil Dawson around.1

First things first though, I had to learn who the Eagles kicker was. I had no idea, but his name is Alex Henery. That’s pretty instructive to the point, because Henery has been pretty good and yet I didn’t even know his name. Henery seemingly doesn’t have the length of Akers as he doesn’t match Akers’ longs of 55 and 63 yards of the last two years. Akers was also utilized a heck of a lot more attempting 94 kicks over the last two years since leaving Philly. Henery has attempted a mere 58 in those two years. So, what could Joe Banner’s takeaways be since bidding David Akers adieu and what could it mean to Phil Dawson?

Unfortunately, I still don’t think it looks good for Phil to remain a member of the Browns going forward. Akers is the same age as Phil Dawson and this season he hit only 69 percent of his field goal attempts. The year before that, Akers hit almost 85 percent. Granted Henery kicked far fewer attempts, but he hit about 89 percent in his rookie year and 87 percent in his second year. That’s very elementary analysis of course, and teams use kickers very differently, but regardless of that, you want a kicker to have a percentage north of 69 percent. That’s just the kind of thing I’m guessing Banner wanted to avoid when he turned away from re-signing David Akers.

Granted all people are different. Phil Dawson’s value is between his ears and somewhat specialized because he knows how to kick on the shores of Lake Erie specifically. Dawson is also coming off of a Pro Bowl season and appears to be on top of his game. He hit 93.5 percent of his field goals this season. Dawson also hit seven field goals from over 50 yards.2 The problem is that from a value perspective, Phil Dawson will eventually break down. Age catches up with absolutely everyone. Sure, it could catch up to kickers much more slowly than, say, special teamers like Josh Cribbs, but eventually everyone falls over that line from useful athlete to older gentleman. Joe Banner apparently just doesn’t want to be financially tied to that known degradation.

Phil Dawson will probably want a multi-year deal, believe it or not. It just doesn’t seem all that likely that Joe Banner will look back at “missing out” on three years of David Akers late in his career at about $9 million total and think that he dropped the ball. It seems equally unlikely that he will apply the same kind of thinking that saw him draft Alex Henery in the fourth round of the NFL draft rather than pay Akers and come out on the side of paying Phil Dawson for years that are likely to occur after his usefulness has dried up. I know that’s harsh, but betting on kickers into their 40′s is a tough thing to justify without bringing emotions into it.

Yes, there are a lot of arguments to be made about each kicking job being different and the Cleveland job being pretty specialized because of the stadium on the lake, but just as I’m guessing the Browns will move on from Phil Dawson, I would be surprised if they didn’t install field turf. So that changes some of the kicking proposition when the turf of Cleveland Browns stadium is that much more predictable. It doesn’t help the specifics of the wind, of course, but it should help the stadium kicking percentage overall.

So be happy that Cleveland sent Phil Dawson off at the top of his game and representing Cleveland in the Pro Bowl. Be happy that he never had to have his worst seasons at the end of his career here.

You know… assuming that the Browns aren’t going to bring him back. I would love to be wrong and hope that Phil Dawson plays in Cleveland at a high level forever.3 Right now, I just don’t see it happening.

(AP Photo / Tony Dejak)

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. Assuming the outcome isn’t exactly unbiased, but that’s just what I expected to see. []
  2. His long was only 53 BTW and that number is unlikely to increase with age. []
  3. They can afford it too even if it is a mistake, BTW. []

  • MrCleaveland

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Dawson is at his peak. Keep him!

    (Operating on the same theory that it’s better to get rid of a guy a year too early than a year too late, I traded an aging Barry Bonds off my fantasy team. The next year he hit 70 bombs.)

  • Garry_Owen

    Alex Henery was, in my opinion, one of the greatest kickers to ever play college football. He’s got incredible range and accuracy, and I believe he’ll turn out to be one of the NFL’s best kickers. When the Eagles drafted him, it was a no-brainer to move on from Akers. Indeed, on these very webpages, I pushed hard for the Browns (why do they never listen to me?) to draft Henery to replace Dawson (and I love Dawson). As far as I’m aware, there is no Alex Henery available this year for the Browns, and I just don’t see the sense in replacing Dawson with a younger guy right now, regardless of the cost savings. I’d sign Dawson to a 2-year, maybe 3-year, contract, with no reservations at all. But, as we’ve already established, the Browns never listen to me.

  • Natedawg86

    I think they may be looking hard into kickoffs and touchbacks, but shoot Dawson lead the league in Kickoff average start at 19.9! That means that as a kicker, he was able to put the ball in a position that the KR would have to field it and return it, but often times would not make it back to the 20. Throw in all those average returns to the 30 yard line and one every once and a while to the 40 and that is darn impressive. He had 75 KO, 30 KOTB. http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/statistics/player/kicking/sort/kickoffs/2012
    AND during the pro bowl, he kicked an onsides backwards. Cmon man how many kickers can do that?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wouldn’t it be just our luck that the Browns have an offense led by Turner in which Weeden excels and Richardson is a workhorse only to have a rookie kicker cost the team multiple victories? I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight, oh Lord.

  • Natedawg86

    Blair Walsh (R) from Minnesota was impressive last season as well, but he played in a dome. Maybe we won’t need to kick FGs next season, just EP.

  • Garry_Owen

    We could just go for 2. Every time.

  • Steve

    The kicker, by himself, cannot cost you multiple victories. If a game is within three points at the end, there certainly would have been many plays where a couple inches here or there would make a huge difference preceeding the kick.

    We have a team that went 23-57 over the last five years. I like Dawson too, but choosing between overpaying a good, but aging, kicker or underpaying a young, but unproven, one is incredibly far down the list of important decisions for this franchise.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I disagree a kicker can absolutely cost a team a game. It’s the NFL “a couple of inches” always comes in to play, well, most of the time.

    As for your second point YES for most teams the kicker position isn’t or shouldn’t be of high discussion but then again we’re not talking about most teams. We’re talking about a bad team who frankly has been spoiled by a kicker who has been outstanding who until last season had a hard time scoring. So you want to take a step back and weaken an area of strength because you don’t want to pay him? Sounds about right for Cleveland.

    This reminds me of not wanting to pay a certain FB but instead the excuse of him not being able to catch passes out of the backfield was used as the primary reason for not resigning him. So what happens he isn’t resigned and you draft a FB with a decent draft pick named Owen Marecic. Boy did that work out well.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Walsh and Tucker I thought were the most impressive.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lou Groza just rolled over in his grave!

  • OR PICK A NAME

    Is it possible that the Browns are just incredibly gifted when it comes to selecting kickers, or is maybe the whole “kicking on the lakefront” thing overstated? How is it that an organization that seldom gets anything else right has had the good fortune of Groza to Cockroft to Bahr to Stover to Dawson. Mark Mosely filled in during one of the AFC Championship years, but that was because of injury. And I remember Steve Cox on the roster as a kickoff and long FG specialist during the latter Cockroft years.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Billy Cundiff is available. Sure, he missed one huge kick in the AFC title game, but the dude has an absolute cannon for a leg, and I bet he’d be cheaper than Dawson.

    Let’s not overthink this.

  • Steve

    If anyone is still thinking that Vickers leaving made a big difference for the Browns, they need to turn off the TV on Sundays and go find something less stressful for themselves.

    A kicker can only cost a team a game after the defense fails to make key stops on 3rd down, or after your offense sputtered out on a key possession earlier in that game, or that drive itself. It’s a team game, until that damn kicker misses one.

    A bad team has less need for a good kicker than a good team. If we’re going to pick apart the roster to determine if you need a kicker, it’s a point for those that want to allocate dollars elsewhere.

    And I don’t want to weaken an area of strength. I want less bemoaning of a move that is fairly meaningless in the big picture.

    I’ll worry about the kicker when they have a QB who can get the team to the playoffs, a OLB who can get into the backfield, a healthy consistent playmaker on offense, and plenty more depth.

  • mgbode

    I wasn’t mad when Vickers left though I did get a chuckle out of him turning to the Browns sidelines with a glare after his catch in Dallas this past season.

    A kicker on a bad team is important because those teams tend to not be able to punch it in the endzone and rely on kickers more to score their points (don’t we know that to be the truth). A kicker on a good team may decide the entire season’s fate on one play (Do Belichick/Brady even have a ring without Viniatieri?).

    The issue with the payscale is that the difference between the 2nd tier kickers (this is where Dawson is) and the 3rd and 4th tier kickers (guys like Akers/Graham) is extremely small especially compared to other positions.

    However, despite all of that, I think having the Browns spend an extra $2mil ($4mil/1season instead of $2mil on someone else) out of an estimated $48mil in cap space is money well spent on a career Brown’s player who has suffered alongside us.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was using the Vickers example of another “lateral move” made by this franchise. Sorta like having three TEs and drafting a fourth in Cameron in that same draft as Marecic.

    I don’t want to overdo the case for Dawson I’m simply saying the Browns are a better team with him then without and that’s before ever knowing his potential replacement.

    As for the rest I’d tend to agree that those other positions namely QB have more importance but those same positions have been an issue for this franchise for how many years now?

    As sick of a kicker discussion you have multiply that by 10 when it comes to the revolving door at the QB position. I’m guessing we’ll have another dose coming up I’m just hoping if we do that another top draft pick instead used. If a third or fourth round pick or later is used or better yet a trade or free agent signing I can live with that but not another top draft pick. As you stated this team has plenty of other areas of need.

  • REEPJP

    With the aforementioned Akers struggles this year and Seely being in SF I could see the 49ers making a big push for Phil. He gets to go to a competitor and be closer to home in Texas…it just makes sense. Plus, I’m not sure if teams sign kickers looking ahead to individual games, but they know they’ll play in Seattle at some point with playoff implications and the SB is in blustery NY next year….why not get one of the best bad weather kickers.

  • mgbode

    SF isn’t exactly next door to Austin either :)

    I agree that SF could make a push if we don’t sign him before FA opens.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    We shouldn’t spend ANY of our draft picks on a kicker. Phil was undrafted, why can’t the next guy be the same?

  • Steve

    If bad teams are worrying about field goals, they have their priorities screwed up. “How will we ever get three out of this drive?” pales in comparison to “How in the hell are we going to get a stop when we have to give the ball back to them?” and “How in the hell are we going to get the quick strike to get back in the game/long clock-killing drive to put this game out of reach that we need?”

    Sure, pay Dawson if you have nothing better to do, it’s not my money. That’s not my point. But we, and myself included now, have spent way too much time fretting over the AC being fussy when the brakes don’t even work.

  • mgbode

    hahahaha. you are funny sometimes.

    yes, bad teams need to worry about field goals. you know why? because it’s an easy thing to check off the “to do” list. sign/draft a good kicker and sign a good ST coach. done and they still have plenty of time to worry about how to do other things.

    if bad teams don’t worry about those things in the offseason, then they have to spend continual time throughout the season thinking about them when they have bigger worries :)

  • mgbode

    you would think Groza would be happy to have his scoring record preserved.

  • Steve

    You’re treating this like I said to ignore FGs, which you know is a strawman.

    Fine, everyone wants to hash it out about how important it is to panic over the kicker despite the rest of the roster? Enjoy yourselves.

  • Harv 21

    The fretting over the next kicker on a perennial 5-11 team, the holy name of Saint Lawrence Vickers invoked, ahhh … can the draft be so far off? Somebody hit me up wth them kickers’ draft reports. I’m thinking 6th – 7th round, maybe a pudgy little Cameroonian with a high arch, loose hips and a real slow motor.

  • mgbode

    you said: “If bad teams are worrying about field goals, they have their priorities screwed up.”

    I answered that they can worry about it for a small time in the offseason or continually during the season. that’s all.

    look, we all understand that this isn’t the biggest issue, but it’s February, so we’re debating the little things because that’s all we have right now.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Toe is a team guy even in death!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh Steve don’t get your thong in a bunch!

  • Matt S

    Let’s not boil this down to “do we decide to keep Phil”. In order for Phil Dawson to stay, he has to want to stay and stay for a reasonable contract. Phil Dawson will likely want a longer term contract (which they’d be fools to give him) and high dollars. I understand that they have cap room and little to spend it on, but if you sign Dawson to a 3 year deal worth $4M/year (likely around his asking price), you’re talking about having a $4M cap hit in a year where you’re hoping to contend. For a kicker who will be a good bet to be probably worse than replacement level by then.

    It’s not about the amount of money per year, it’s about the years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/oscar.shlotkinz Oscar Slotkin

    Joe Banner is a weasel.

  • matthew

    and if anyone noticed mr vickers caught as couple of pretty nice first downs passes when they played cleveland this year. phil should stay, simply because of the cap room we have. get an undrafted free agent kicker and let phil show him the secrets to kicking the long ball on the lake.

  • SDA

    That’s true, when I called and applied for the D.C. position I told them Gary supports me in this effort and they still didn’t hire me.

  • compass90

    WHO WAS THE BROWNS LEADING SCORER OVER THE LAST 3 YEARS? WHO HAVE THE bROWNS “FRANCHISED” TWICE?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    Not really sure why you are arguing so hard against securing the one spot on this team we havent had to worry about in the last….forever. As has been said, kickers on a bad to not so good team, are important. Kickers are important to good teams, as well. If you have a chance to build a roster that across the board has guys that can produce when called upon, then you do it. If the FO can find a guy at half the price that can produce, and has a high ceiling, the i say go for it. But, kicker is a key position on any team. To pretend that we only care because of our sad sack of a team the last couple decades, is just silly. Remember Vanderjagt?
    And your point about teams shouldn’t be in the position to need the kicker to win the game, defies rational thought! No team is perfect, Steve….

  • Garry_Owen

    Shameful, isn’t it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/aerospacemichael Michael Jordan

    to get rid of my man, phil dawson, is just stupid. Yeah, I know his contract would be around 15 million and so what, he is worth the money. He is the only Browns player, that performs his role, with greatness.
    Don’t be a douche bag Banner, resign Dawson.

  • AndyDo

    If your vision is only half as bad as your writing ability, Phil Dawson will be in Cleveland longer than King Tut was a mummy.

  • Dave

    Media crap! Dawson is reliable. He’ll retire a Brown. Why get a maybe,while you’ve got a guarantee. But then again. Weeden should of been gone already.

  • Adam

    complitly agree with you!!!

    http://www.plagiarismdetect.com