by Michael Beuoy
Google Visualization API Sample<br />
The second most unloved play in the NFL (behind the extra point and, possibly, the Blaine Gabbert pass). When they show a punt on DirecTV's Redzone Channel, Andrew Siciliano actually apologizes, as if it were an errant f-bomb that made it past their tape delay.
The purpose of this post is to show some statistical love for this less glamorous element of the game. Much has been made of the improvement in field goal accuracy over the years. Do we see a similar improvement in punting? What I found is that punters are improving, having added about 4 net yards to their punts over the past ten years.
For this analysis, I used the play by play data Brian Burke posts on his site, looking at seasons 2002 through 2011. From the fields and the play description, I was able to parse out which plays were punts, as well as the following data fields:
- Field Position (where the team punted from)
- Gross Yards (how far the kick went)
- Net Yards
- Result - Did the play end in a touchback, fair catch, downed by the kicking team, muff, return, or block?
- Penalty Yards (if any) assessed on the punt
I only focused on "normal" punts for this analysis, meaning I excluded any punts that were blocked or that somehow resulted in the punting team retaining possession. If a punt had to be rekicked due to penalty, I am only counting the second "official" punt.