Graham Gano is among the easier scapegoats for the debacle that is the 2011 Redskins.
Gano, who-last season was the worst kicker in the NFL statistically and has had more kicks blocked or shanked this season than anybody else with his job, missed a 52-yarder with the game on the line against Dallas.
Mike Shanahan, the man allegedly responsible for assembling the NFL’s least hopeful roster and keeping Gano on it, lightly kicked the kicker when he was down at yesterday’s press conference.
From the Washington Post‘s report on the coach’s warnings to his wide-right specialist:
“Like everybody, you have to perform and you hope he performs at a very high level,” the coach said. “He gets the opportunities, you want him to convert, and if you don’t take advantage of those opportunities, you don’t kick in the National Football League. We all know that. It’s a high-pressure job and you’re always hoping a guy comes through, and if you don’t come through, you lose your job, just like any other position.”
But Stefan Fatsis, a guy who knows as much about Shanahan and kickers as anybody, isn’t surprised Shanahan hasn’t booted Gano just yet.
“Shanny’s not a hair-trigger anti-kicker coach, like, say Bill Parcells was,” says Fatsis.
Fatsis is the author of A Few Seconds of Panic, a book for which he spent the 2006 training camp with Shanahan’s Denver Broncos, a la George Plimpton‘s Paper Lion*, only with Fatsis as kicker instead of QB.
He says Shanahan is new-school when it comes to giving kickers a little more time to play themselves out of a job.
“The kicker carousel doesn’t spin as fast as it used to,” he says. “And that’s not just because this year’s kicker stats are simply ridiculous, especially from half a field away or more. It’s because coaches recognizes the hair-thin margin for error in the job; in this case, Gano’s miss could have been caused by anything from a imperceptible slip on the turf to striking the ball a quarter inch one way or another. I credit Shanny for sticking by and up for Gano despite the miss. He noted, rightly, that Gano made a 59-yarder just a couple of weeks ago.”
Another thing Fatsis took away from his internship: A 52-yard field goal attempt, whether in training camp or with a real game on the line, ain’t a gimme.
“The goalposts look like toothpicks from 52, the space between no bigger than the gap between Michael Strahan‘s teeth,” says Fatsis. “I needed a GPS and two kicks to make it from there.”
*Not Paper Tiger!