The NFL Pro Bowl rosters were announced on Tuesday and while the Raiders did have Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler earning trips back to the game, there was one player that earned his spot and was deprived of the opportunity.
That player is of course Sebastian Janikowski.
The kicker voted onto the AFC squad was Nate Kaeding of the Chargers. While Kaeding is a fine kicker and had a great season, he is not the best kicker in the AFC this season; Janikowski is.
Kaeding probably got the Pro Bowl bid because he made the most field goals in the AFC this season. Which is great but not the real measure of which kicker truly deserves the honor. The flaw in giving a pro bowl nod to a guy who has the most field goals is that the number of field goals is purely a product of a great offense. For which the Chargers have one of the best in the NFL. And the issue here is that the sheer number of field goals made is the only category that he trumps Janikowski.
Every other category, Janikowski has him beat.
So, what makes for a great kicker? It is typically some combination of leg strength, accuracy and consistency. So let's run through the measuring sticks for each of these qualities:
Let's start with accuracy. Kaeding has 5 more field goals on the season than Janikowski at this point. Thing is though that Kaeding had 18 field goals that were less than 30 yards while Janikowski had just 3. That is 15 field goals that Janikowski had to make from further distance.
Both players were 100% on field goals between 30 and 39 yards. But between 40 and 49 yards Janikowski had 10 tries and he hit 9 of them. While Kaeding had 6 tries and made only 4 of them.
Now let's talk about leg strength. Kaeding's longest field goal this year was 55. Janikowski just hit a 61 yard field goal for the fourth longest field goal in the history of the NFL. Now we are not talking about the best this year, we are talking about the best EVER.
And when speaking of lef strength, how can I leave out the always overlooked kick-off duties? And boy howdy in this category Kaeding doesn't belong on the same field. Janikowski has 17 touchbacks this season to Kaeding's 9. This despite the Chargers scoring a hell of a lot more than the Raiders and thus Kaeding kicking off a hell of a lot more than Janikowski. What this means is that Janikowski has a touchback percentage of over 31% which is good for second best in the AFC behind only the Broncos' Matt Prater who has the luxury of kicking off in Denver‘s thin air half the time. All the while Kaeding has a touch back percentage of 9.9% which has him at #9 in the AFC.
Which brings us to consistency. Janikowski has hit more field goals this year outside of 50 yards (6) than any other kicker in the NFL. Kaeding is tied for #7 with half as many made outside of 50 (3).
I already mentioned Janikowski's record setting 61 yarder and Kaeding's longest being a 55 yarder. But what about the next best? Kaeding's next longest field goal was a 52 yarder and he did it just once. Janikowski's next longest was from 54 yards out and he did it FOUR TIMES. You can put this one in the accuracy category too.
The only category that these two are even equal is number of misses at 3 on the season. But not really because one of those misses was Janikowski running out quickly as time expired before halftime to attempt a 66 yard field goal. That is worse than blaming the kicker for getting a kick blocked. And yet even with the frantic 66 yard attempt, these two still have the same number of misses on the season. Even with Kaeding kicking 18 field goals inside 30 yard to Janikowski's 3. Even with Janikowski attempting twice as many field goals beyond 50 yards than Kaeding.
It must be simply because he didn't hit his 61 yarder until after the voting had closed, right? But do his other numbers not stand up on their own? Why should he have to make history to get to the Pro Bowl? Apparently even that is not enough.