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Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Should field goals be made harder?


Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Our AFC East maven, Tim Graham, writes Tuesday about the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame.

That had me thinking of conversations I had during the season with Houston kicker Kris Brown and Titans coach Jeff Fisher about how field goal percentage has been on a steady incline. From 1999 to 2008, the percentage jumped from 77.7 to 84.5 with an increase every year but one.

NFL Field Goal Percentages
Year FG%
2008 84.5
2007 82.5
2006 81.4
2005 81.0
2004 80.8
2003 79.2
2002 77.5
2001 76.3
2000 79.7
1999 77.7

Brown said he had not looked at any kicker percentage numbers until the Texans did their Pro Bowl voting this season.

"You're starting to see percentages creep up, I think because the position is starting to be played by athletic guys, guys that grew up playing other positions and understand the game," he said. "Whereas before, a lot of guys never really played the game, they were probably on their soccer team and got recruited to come kick. I think guys are training year round, staying in better shape, kicking earlier in the offseason. I think it's the combination of a lot of things."

Fisher said kickers are stronger than ever and have benefitted from offseason programs around the league. He also said there are a lot of factors in the steady improvement, but talked about one in particular -- a rule change in 2007 that prohibited defenses from lining a player up directly over the snapper.

"I think you might also consider the fact that we protected the center a little bit, so we're not getting as much inside push and blocks and pressure and things like that," he said. "Because of that we've been able to specialize with snappers, so snaps have been usually much better."

What if it got to the point where kickers were hitting nine of every 10 field goal attempts, I asked, would Fisher back any competition committee proposals that somehow make things harder? No, he said.

"I would hope they wouldn't," Brown said. "If that's what they decide to do, that's what they decide to do. I would never say never."