It's been said the NFL is an acronym of Not For Long, a phrase especially true for the league's placekickers.

Last year, NFL kickers were successful on 82 percent of all their kicks, but 1999 has been a different story. So far, the league's kickers have only a 69 percent success rate, and other figures show a dramatic dropoff from last season, according to Dr. Scott Berry, a statistics professor at Texas A&M University who specializes in sports stats.

"Last season was one of the best ever for kickers. It got to be where kicking a field goal was almost a sure thing," Berry says. "This year, that's not the case."

For his paper "Modeling NFL Field Goal Kickers with a Geometry Model" to be published in Chance magazine, a publication dealing with statistics, Berry compiled a list of the league's best kickers based on 1998 data. His model estimates the top three kickers from 30 yards out are Gary Anderson of the Minnesota Vikings at 97 percent; Doug Brien of the New Orleans Saints (96 percent) and Mike Vanderjagt of the Indianapolis Colts (also 96 percent).

The least successful on Berry's list: Michael Husted of Tampa Bay (86 percent) and Greg Davis of Arizona (87 percent).

"Last year, it was almost getting to the point where kickers were too good. Kickers were amazingly accurate. But funny things happen," Berry notes.

"Gary Anderson was a perfect 35 of 35 on field goal attempts, but he missed an easy 38-yarder against Atlanta in the playoffs and it cost Minnesota the game and a trip to the Super Bowl. Starting this season, he missed his first three attempts. But he isn't alone," Berry adds.

Morten Andersen, one of the NFL's all-time best in accuracy, missed his first four attempts of this season, Berry says. So far, Anderson and Andersen are a combined 6 of 15 - hardly pro caliber. "You'd have to say it's a very down year for kickers to this point," Berry adds.

Berry's statistical model reflects distance - especially in 50-yard and longer attempts - and overall accuracy. All kickers experience a severe decline in success in attempts over 40 yards, he notes.

He has been asked by one national sports publication to determine the chances of a question that is often the source of bar room bets and friendly arguments: What are the odds of anyone being successful on a 70-yard field goal? The NFL's current record is 63 yards.

He calculates the odds at 580 to 1 against, which means there's a lot of chances for wide-rights and not-long-enoughs. His pick for the one man who has a chance of doing it: Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos, who tied the NFL record with a 63-yarder last season.

"I don't think you'll see a 70-yarder because the chances of success are so low that coaches would rarely attempt one," Berry believes.

And his pick as the best kicker in the game today? "My model shows that it's still Gary Anderson of Minnesota," he confirms.
"It shows he's the best in overall accuracy (at 97 percent within 30 yards) and he has a 78 percent chance of making 50-yarders. Those are very impressive figures."

Contact: Keith Randall at (409) 845-4644 or Scott Berry at (409) 845-3141.

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