ASHBURN, Va. (AP) —Going by the stats, Neil Rackers should have been a runaway winner over Graham Gano for the Washington Redskins kicking job.
That’s why Gano has learned not to pay attention to the stats.
The Redskins cut Rackers on Monday, giving Gano the kicking duties for another season despite an NFL-high 10 missed field goal attempts in 2011.
Then again, Gano also had an NFL-high five attempts blocked. Four of his other five misses were from 49 yards or more.
“I think early in my career I was a big stat guy,” Gano said. “But now I don’t even focus on statistics. I don’t look at what’s going on around the league or listen to any of that mess. I think if you look at mine now, it’ll say my percentage is somewhere in the 70s, whereas in reality last year I was 86 percentage, in my mind, if you take away the blocked kicks.”
Rackers’ release came as the Redskins trimmed their roster to 75, the first round of cuts toward firming up a 53-man regular season roster by the end of the week. Gano realized he had won the job when he saw Rackers carrying belongings outside the building.
“You wish that we could both be here all year long,” Gano said. “To be able to come through and win this job, I’m excited about it. At the same time, you feel for Neil. To get to know him and his family, it’s hard to see this happen.”
This was a competition essentially decided on the practice field. The Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) attempted only two field goals in their first three preseason games, both by Rackers. He made a 28-yarder and missed from 54.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Gano “won the statistical battle in practice” and that the 25-year-old kicker gets “undue criticism” because the blocks last season weren’t the kicker’s fault.
Rackers arrived with a strong pedigree. The 36-year-old kicker has played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans over 12 seasons, and his 88.2 field goal percentage over the last three years is third best in the NFL over that span. The Redskins signed him as a free agent when he couldn’t reach a new deal with the Texans.
Gano, who joined the Redskins late in 2009, has a percentage of 73.8 over the same time period, second-worst in the league.
He’s also 5 for 8 on game-tying and game-winning field goals in the final two minutes of a game or in overtime, with all three misses coming from 47 yards or more.
Those are the kicks that really matter — according to the advice Gano received last week when he met Mark Moseley, the only kicker ever to win league MVP. Gano sat with the former Washington kicker’s family at the Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon.
“He was very encouraging, telling me sometimes you’re going to miss kicks, but if you make the big ones, that’s what’s important,” Gano said. “That’s what made him such a big deal here, that he hit the game-winners.”
Notes: The Redskins’ other cuts included QB Jonathan Crompton, WR Samuel Kirkland, RBs Antwon Bailey and Lennon Creer, TE Beau Reliford, LB Monte Lewis and OLs Tony Moll, Chris Campbell, James Lee and Nick Martinez. ... CB Morgan Trent (knee, shoulder) was waived with an injury settlement. ... WR Lance Lewis (groin) was waived-injured and is expected to receive an injury settlement. ... RT Jammal Brown, who had hip surgery last week, was moved from the active physically unable to perform list to the reserve physically unable to perform list. ... CB Kevin Barnes was traded to the Detroit Lions for a conditional draft pick. ... S Tanard Jackson was absent from practice due to personal reasons. ... TE Chris Cooley did not take part in drills. Shanahan said Cooley wasn’t feeling well. ... LG Kory Lichtensteiger, who is missing the entire preseason while recovering from left knee surgery, practiced and said he remains on pace to play in the Sept. 9 regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints. “I’m encouraged. I don’t see anything standing in the way of me being ready,” he said. ... Shanahan said fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins will start at quarterback Wednesday in the preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robert Griffin III and most, if not all, of the projected regular season starters will get the night off.