Following the Seattle Seahawks game against Washington, during which Blair Walsh missed three field goal attempts, many fans were both distraught and outraged that the team had allowed Steven Hauschka to leave in free agency last spring. Claims were made that Walsh was the sole reason for the loss, and that this should have been expected when the team signed him last year.
The outcry from fans was anything but quiet on the subject.
One of the most common refrains from fans in the immediate aftermath of the game was that Walsh could no longer kick in the NFL due to his fragile mental state. This came in several different forms, including,
- The dude clearly can’t kick when it counts.
- I don't blame Walsh for this loss but I do worry about his psyche moving forward.
- Walsh missed 3 field goals of less than 50 yards. He’s a head case. Cut him and find some college kid to replace him.
- Walsh is a goddamned liability and I had yakkity sax in my head every time he lined up to kick.
- Walsh was atrocious and should be cut, signing a kicker who’s mentality is completely broken is absolute stupidity.
Now, I know the experts say the data shows there is no such thing as a streak, but sometimes things get lost in the data. Ask any former kicker - or anyone who has worked in any profession where confidence is king such as sales - and they will surely tell you there are times when you feel unstoppable and there are times when you feel unable to do anything right. With that in mind, I charted all of Walsh’s field goal attempts in his football career all the way back to his freshman year at the University of Georgia. I wanted to focus on his misses, so here is a histogram of all of his missed kicks, with each bar representing a four game period.
Again, I know the data says streaks don’t exist, but to me, that sure looks a lot like his misses come in bunches. However, since this is nothing more than the absolute number of misses, let’s see if the number of kicks he is attempting is increasing as well. Here is a chart showing both attempts and misses.
Interestingly, it appears as though that while he indeed does miss some kicks, his attempts go up as well. So, let me take a look at one other item here as well, and that is a moving average of his misses. In this chart the yellow line is a 12 game moving average for number of kicks missed (non-weighted for those of you keeping score at home).
Now, what sticks out to me about this chart is that while his field goal attempts have trended up over the course of his career, the moving average for the number of misses he has over a twelve game period has a downward trendline overall. Perhaps more importantly, the peaks for the moving average have, over time, become lower. In financial charting, this would be an indication of a downward trend for the chart, and is a strong positive for Walsh.
As previously noted, these are all counting stats, so what does the data look like when it is converted to a rate stat? Well, without wasting further time, here is the data on a percentage basis for the duration of Walsh’s career.
The results once again tend to indicate that Walsh is not mentally broken or damaged. In fact, with the rate chart confirming the lower peaks seen on the charts of the absolute data, it may indicate that he in fact learned from his past struggles and may have a leg up on getting back into a groove.
In addition to showing lower peaks on the chart, one other item is also readily noticeable. Walsh’s horrible, atrocious, apocalyptic 2016 where he couldn’t hit anything because of the mental distraught of having cost his team a playoff game barely registers a blip on the chart. In fact, his post-playoff miss woes not only show up at a lower level than his December 2014 regular season struggles (where he missed five of six field goals over a two game stretch), he had two periods in college - one as a freshman and another as a senior - where he went through a slump far greater than anything he has experienced as a pro. A far deeper slump than he experienced post-playoff miss.
In short, Walsh is likely fine. He had a bad game in bad weather. He’s bounced back from previous bad streaks, and there is no reason to believe that his two for two performance against the Arizona Cardinals represents anything other than a return to form.
The Washington game wasn’t the first time in his career Walsh has missed three field goals in a game. With any luck, it will be the last.