Say what you will about Tim Ruskell's pride, but not many general managers would admit a mistake in such a transparent and demonstrative fashion. That's what he did by releasing Brandon Coutu. Coutu did not miss a field goal over two seasons and eleven attempts. He hit from 52 yards. He hit from 48 yards. He went five for five in his second professional game including the game winning kick from 36. But Coutu could not kickoff to save his job.
It wasn't a mystery. Anyone with access to the internet and the will knew Coutu wasn't Thunder Leg at Georgia. See:
Olindo Mare will beat out Brandon Coutu.
I wasn’t fond of the Coutu pick and I think he’s the Hawk’s most precarious player. So far, all I’ve heard about Coutu’s performance is explanations: Nerves, inexperience—BS. I think the kid’s lost a few ticks off his fastball. His senior season his kickoff average plummeted to a Mike Vandejagt-like 59.0 and he notched only one touchback, but 3 kicks out of bounds. I expect Mare to completely outclass the rookie.
So it took some humility by Ruskell to release Coutu, because, if only tacitly, it admits that he underestimated the value of kickoff distance. How valuable is it?
Back to touchbacks. Using the concept of Expected Points (EP), the average point value of a first down at each field position(see graph below), we can estimate the nominal value of a touchback. The 20 yd line represents 0.1 EP, and the weighted average of the distribution of non-touchback field position is 0.9 EP. That's a value of 0.8 EP per touchback. (This includes turnovers and penalties.)
Sacks are worth 1.7 EP, so a touchback could be considered the equivalent of about half a sack.
Brian Burke is wispering into your ear "Olindo Mare was worth 11 sacks in 2008."