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Seahawks [May] Recognize that Jon Ryan Is Not Very Good

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I can't tell you much about Tom Malone, other than his name sounds like it should appear in a romance novel, but I can tell you that signing a punter is a possible indication that Seattle is not content with Jon Ryan. Actually, I take that back, I can tell you this about Tom Malone:

2002 (Fr.) 62 2609 42.1 72 0 0 0.0 0 0
2003 (So.) 42 2060 49.0 70 1 0 0.0 0 0
2004 (Jr.) 49 2144 43.8 62 1 -15 -15.0 0 -15
Career Totals 153 6813 44.5 72 2 -12 -6.0 0 -15

More from his USC bio:

CAREER: Malone's 44.5 career punting average (on 153 punts) is above the USC record (44.1 set by Des Koch in 1951-53) and just shy of the all-time Pac-10 mark (44.6, by UCLA's Kirk Wilson in the mid-1950s). Fifty-one of his 153 career punts have traveled at least 50 yards and 84 have pinned opponents within the 20-yard line.

What's missing from all this? Fair catches. Perhaps the most important stat a punter can have. But, of course, not tracked by anywhere I can find. Oh wait, here's an indication. USC ranked 116th in college football in return yards allowed in 2005. Malone punted 32 times and 22 times the opponent returned it. And when they did, despite USC's abundance of talent, they tore a hole through USC's coverage teams. Joy.

I don't think Ryan is a good punter. I have gone back and forth about this idea, attempting to isolate what it is about Ryan I dislike. He scores very well in advanced metrics, but I think those metrics are flawed. For one, they assume the punt and the coverage team's struggles fielding that punt are discrete, and they aren't. In fact, given the players that typically populate a return team, a motley crew of largely undifferentiated third-string talent, I would guess that the punter himself is much more influential in a return than the other ten players*. Typically, a good return results after a punt reaches the returner well before the coverage team can arrive, and a fair catch results when the coverage team can surround the returner before he catches it. That's accomplished by having the right mix of length and height, so that you don't over kick your coverage.

I summarized my opinions thus:

Long and shallow is just how [Ryan] kicks.

And that's very, very bad. Long and shallow is valuable to bad teams because they must struggle to flip field position. But who gives a damn about the punter on a bad team? Interim GM Ruston Webster is who. If Seattle becomes good again, Ryan's ability and type become a liability. On a short field, Ryan is either going to boom a touchback or slap a drive to the returner. He hurts Seattle more as Seattle becomes better. It's the curse of Tom Rouen reborn.

We'll see if anything becomes of this. Malone might be little more than depth. It's prudent for a team to have a player on speed dial just in case the punter is injured. Remember Ryan Plackemeier lost his job shortly after recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. What Plack was doing benching is still beyond me.

Plus! Cronyism!

*And check it out, USC, the most talented program in college football, couldn't stop punt returns in 2005.