the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, August 27, 2012

Third Kicking Competition Concludes: Graham Gano over Neil Rackers

In Washington, the younger incumbent held off the veteran challenger to retain the Redskins kicking job. Pressed for time, head coach Mike Shanahan gave the sort answer as to why they decided to go with Graham Gano over Neil Rackers: 
Graham, won the statistical battle in practice and in games and that’s why he is on our team.
Graham Gano had a little more time and went into details of the competition:
I saw Neil this morning when he was walking out. We had a good little talk…. He was a big professional about it. He wished me the best of luck this year. He said he’s pulling for me to do well. He’s a great guy.

I’m excited to have the opportunity. It was a good competition between Neil and I in the practices. We didn’t get as many field goals as we would have hoped for in the preseason. Neil is a true professional about everything. He’s handled himself as a professional this whole time. It was good to have him here.... I think every day Neil and I went out, we knew practice was going to play a key role in it. We hoped for more opportunities in the games…. We’ve kicked a lot in practice over the offseason and the preseason. I’m not sure what played into their decision. I think we both did well…. We thought it was going to come down to the last week but it was the coaches’ decision.

I feel like I’ve improved for sure. I think I’m more mature as a kicker in this league. I feel like I did a good job last year. But I’m just looking to improve this year and keep getting better…. I think the more and more you play, the more mature you’re going to get, the more confident you’re going to be in your play.

These days are always tough. You make friendships with the guys, a ton of guys throughout the preseason. To see them let go, it’s really hard. I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere. He’s a great kicker. You wish that we could both be here all year long but you know that’s just the business. It’s tough and I’m just happy I get the opportunity to be here.
Last week, Neil Rackers discussed his approach to the competition:
It’s go do your job and they’ll tell you who they like at the end of camp. That’s the only way Graham and I can both look at it. You’re not kicking against the other guy; you’re doing what you do best and they’ll tell you who they want at the end. I’m a firm believer in karma. I’ve never rooted against another kicker. I enjoy Graham and he’s very good at what he does. He’ll be successful and I root for him to be so.
Postscript: But the story didn't end here. The day after Rackers was released, which occurred the day after the Ravens had released Billy Cundiff in favor of Justin Tucker, the Redskins signed Cundiff and released Gano. Via social media, Gano said goodbye:
I would like to thank the Redskins organization for the 3 years I spent with them. I will miss my teammates and I wish you the best of luck!

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