And pardon Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons, who pulled Graham off the waiver wire the week of Lewis’ NFL head coaching debut in 2003 in the wake of the injury to Neil Rackers in the preseason finale, if he sees some similarities.So, according to Hob, Rayner and Nugent should work out fine because of three things: that Simmons likes them; that their performance will be elevated to a higher level than normal as a natural reaction to competition; and that their numbers, loosely defined as containing numerals by Hob, are close enough to Graham's to warrant a dramatic one-line reveal.
Nugent, who has been with three teams, has made 79 percent of his 100 field-goal tries. Rayner, who has been with five teams, has made 71.2 percent of his 59 tries.
“That sounds like Shayne Graham to me in 2002 and 2003,” said Simmons, who coached Graham in Carolina in ‘02. “That happens with a lot of kickers in this league. They’re out on the street and it rekindles that hunger a little bit. Competition brings out the best in everybody. Both of these guys are hungry.”
Look at how close the numbers are.
When Graham arrived in ’03, he was a 73.1-percent kicker, and he had only tried 26 NFL field goals. Rayner, 27, is back kicking after missing much of the spring with a hip flexor. Nugent, 28, made all six of his field goal tries last week two days after he was 4-for-6. After Thursday’s practice, Simmons says he likes the way both guys are hitting the ball. He had just watched them hit a bunch of 20-yard chippies while the line was getting worked on, but he wants to make sure he doesn’t overwork them, particularly Rayner.
Hmm. Interesting case (see that Hob--it's a sarcastic dramatic one-line reveal!)
Simmons, seeing as how he's coaching the unit one of these players will be an integral part of, is naturally going to talk up both and compare them to a "success" story he was included in; he can't publicly insult his own players, he probably wants to convince himself that everything will work out alright, and he might be trying to present himself to Bengals' fans and management as an expert at picking out good kickers.
Meanwhile, I'm not quite sure how Rayner and Nugent are supposed to improve because of competition alone. I suppose they could stay out late on the practice field, booting ball after ball, but that would presumably tire them out, thus defeating the purpose. Could they both see each others' heads instead of the ball as they kick it? As Peter King would say, MAYBE, but it's tough to quickly convert the knowledge of where to kick the football to where the head should be struck. I say just below the mouth but above the chin (or with Mikey Boy, straight in the extended gullet), but nevertheless, the purpose is again defeated.
Lastly, the numbers must be knocked down. Baghdad Hob points out the similarities in the field goal percentages of Graham, Rayner and Nugent BEFORE joining the Bengals. Think about this for a second: because one --just one-- kicker slightly struggled at the beginning of his career and then went out to be very accurate, the same will happen for all other kickers who shared his struggles. That's insane. That's using stats without any context, acting like three sample sizes (crucial in all cases) are all the same when in reality two are more than double one. That's exactly the type of propagandist drivel you can expect from Bengals.com.
The fact is that one didn't know how accurate Graham truly was looking solely at those twenty-six attempts, as any stat, especially one like field goal percentage which can be highly dependent on several factors outside the kicker's control (like weather, where the kick is taken from, how good the snap and hold are, standard variance/randomness, etc.), needs time to regress to a (usually) non-extreme value that truly reflects whatever it's trying to measure. In this case, if Graham really was a more accurate kicker, his field goal percentage would have gone up even without a change of scenery due to regression towards his true talent level, the number no longer as affected by random variance or occasional outside factors. The same cannot be said (or at least not to the same extent) for Rayner and Nugent, whose percentages have a comparatively large sample sizes.
Plus, there's no reason to anticipate two completely different players following Graham's career path, given that they're...well, two completely different players. One instance, and some very small similarities to that instance, does not make a trend that should be taken into account while predicting the future performance of the players who have those similarities.
Oh, and by the way--not any of this matters one bit. This is because field goal percentage shouldn't be used in evaluating kickers in ANY case, not just in the event of small sample sizes. Football Outsiders, as has been pointed out many times on this size, has discovered that accuracy for a kicker is not a measurable skill, given that there is very poor correlation to a kicker's field goal percentage year-to-year. The explanation for this is simple: there are just too many exterior variables, as mentioned above, that affect that stat. I was misleading in saying that Rayner and Nugent's percentages were better to use, as they really weren't. Those variables persist throughout all kickers' careers, and don't allow their true talent level for accuracy (assuming there even is one--and seeing as how the motion is similar for all kickers, I'm not really sure there is) to ever appear in field goal percentage or any other statistic.
In my next post, I'll give actual analysis that evaluates Rayner and Nugent's ability to do skills that can be evaluated, and are not either just products of their environment or non-existent.