Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Guy You Can Count On

The players released by the Browns yesterday included the man who kicked Saturday night's game-winner against the Bills, kicker Jeff Chandler. That sucks for Chandler, but let's face it, he wasn't going to win this job away from Phil Dawson.

Dawson has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns since their return to Cleveland. My favorite memory of him is when he kicked the game winner against the Steelers in Three Rivers back in 1999. Everybody remembers the Steelers shellacking the Browns 43-0 to open the 1999 season; not enough people remember that the Browns stole one from the Steelers in their own building that same year.

Despite playing on some really inept teams, Dawson has quietly built up some impressive stats during his seven seasons with the Browns. His career field goal percentage is better than that of the great Adam Vinatieri. For that matter, Dawson's career field goal percentage is the second-highest in NFL history. Last season was Dawson's best, at least in terms of field goal percentage. He went 27-29 on field goals, including a game winner against the Raiders last December. Although the Browns were hardly an offensive juggernaut last season, Dawson's 27 field goals were enough to rank him 6th overall in the NFL, and 4th in the AFC.

Dawson's leg strength has been called into question, but he's 5-6 for his career in field goal attempts over 50 yards, and a respectable 28-42 in attempts between 40 and 50 yards--and remember, he's doing a lot of that in the swirling winds along the shores of Lake Erie.

Even though he was only 5'11" and 185 lbs., Dawson was a starting tackle on his high school team, Texas powerhouse Richardson Lake Highlands. That's the kind of kicker that fans love--a football player whose position just happens to be kicker. As long-time Browns fans will remember, Matt Bahr used to personify that kind of player. It's nice to have another one, and fans ought to appreciate him as much as the Browns do.

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