Last 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)