The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team
September 21, 2009: KICKERS
PLACE KICKER-Robbie Gould
In contention: Kevin Butler, Paul Edinger, Chris Gardocki, Robbie Gould, Jeff Jaeger, Brad Maynard, Todd Sauerbrun
They are the plumbers of the football world: we only notice their work when something goes wrong. Fortunately for Bears fans, a lot has gone right in the kicking game during the Post-Ditka Era. So much, in fact, that the competition at both kicker spots was stiffer than one might imagine, considering the team’s current duo.
But no matter how you shift the numbers, the current duo holds up. And so it was with little disagreement that the readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Committee settled upon Robbie Freaking Gould and Brad Maynard.
Four players entered the discussion at place kicker: Butt Head, Twisty Hips, Double J, and the Goulden Boy. (Why was it so much fun coming up with nicknames for kickers?) A look at the numbers probably settles the discussion:
Butler, 1993 to 1995: 47 games…71 of 96 FG (74.0%)…17 of 33 FG 40+ yards (51.5%)…90 of 91 PAT…three game-winners…303 points
Jaeger, 1996 to 1999: 48 games…63 of 83 (75.9%)…21 of 33 (63.9%)…77 of 78…five game-winners…266 points
Edinger, 2000 to 2004: 80 games…110 of 146 (75.3%)…53 of 76 (69.7%)…133 of 133…five game-winners…463 points
Gould, 2005 to 2008: 61 games…110 of 128 (85.9%)…35 of 49 (71.4%)…140 of 141…seven game-winners (including playoffs)…470 points
This was one of those situations in which we looked at the statistics to see if they countered our overriding gut. Gould was the pick going in, and once we broke down the numbers, there was only one question: how do you weigh Edinger’s power against Gould’s accuracy?
The key stat needed to evaluate the value of Edinger’s strong leg is his 16 of 24 mark on 50-yarders. First, it is startling to compare that total with Gould’s total on 50-yarders: zero for two. The longest kick Edinger hit as a Bear was 54 yards, while Gould’s high is 49. So with ol’ Twisty Hips, the Bears had an opportunity to score from five more yards away from the uprights.
(What would be interesting would be studying the number of drives that have ended with the chance for a 50+ yard Gould field goal, and what the Bears chose to do in all but the two of those situations in which they went for the three points. Sadly, the RJ AB PD Committee does not possess those kinds of statistical capabilities.)
Additionally, by removing the 50+ kicks from his 40+ numbers, Edinger is now 37 of 52 from 40+ for a 71.2%. His 40+, then, is nearly identical to Gould’s (though of course, by getting rid of those two 50+ misses, Gould’s percentage goes up to 74.5%).
So now a great deal of Gould’s accuracy edge is nullified, and Edinger has a bit of an edge in power. Still, for the RJ AB PD Committee, Gould won out based on trust. Edinger hit his share of game-winners (who can forget the 54-yarder at Detroit in the season finale of his rookie year that knocked the Lions out of the playoffs?), but ultimately missed enough kicks down the stretch in 2004 (he missed four of his final seven field goal attempts, and the team chose not to attempt any field goals in their final three games) for the team to not bring him back the next year.
As for Gould, has the man ever missed a kick that really mattered? Maybe, but we can’t remember it happening.
The story at punter is pretty similar:
Gardocki, 1993 to 1994: 32 games…156 punts for 5951 yards (5391 net yards)…38.1 ypp (34.6 net average)
Sauerbrun, 1995 to 1999: 66 games…328 for 13,849 (11,191)…42.2 (34.1)
Maynard, 2001 to 2008: 128 games…718 for 30,264 (26,714)…42.2 (37.2)
Gardocki, with only two PD seasons and the shortest leg of the three, was the first off our board. Sauerbrun v. Maynard is probably an even more compelling argument than Edinger v. Gould. During his time with the team, Sauerbrun was the recipient of many boos and little confidence. Looking back though, his numbers were pretty good. And of course, he went on to be a three-time Pro Bowler in Carolina, and the punter on their Super Bowl team. (And of course, he went on from there to incur a pair of arrests and steroid allegations, while, on the field, playing the victim in one of the best Bears photos ever captured, seen below…)
But as we always say, the post-Bears career (the good and the bad) has no bearing (ha.) on our decisions. And Maynard’s stability (eight seasons and counting with only one game missed) and talent are too much to pass up. Along with a strong leg, Maynard is a fantastic directional punter and does not give up many long returns. He is also the team’s holder, another skill at which he excels. A great choice at punter.