He's No Phil Dawson, But Fans Can't Kick Browns' Signing Of Shayne Graham
By Steven King
At some point next season when their kicking game fails them at the most inopportune time and they end up losing a game – maybe even an important game – they should have won, the Cleveland Browns will rue the day this off-season that they decided not to re-sign Phil Dawson.
After all, Dawson is the best field-goal kicker not just in the game right now, but also in team history.
In his 14 seasons (1999-2012) with the Browns, Dawson was even better than Pro Football Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza, called “The Father of Modern Kicking” for the way his excellence highlighted the importance of the position.
The road on which Browns Headquarters is located, is named for Groza as well.
The address? It’s 76 Lou Groza Boulevard, in honor of Groza’s jersey number.
Dawson used to joke that maybe the Browns could name one of the portable toilets that are trucked in for training camp in his honor. But if they do that now, Dawson won’t be around to see it – unless the San Francisco 49ers are in town.
For a Browns team that can’t score points to start with, it seems incomprehensible to let someone walk who was able to add three points nearly every time he lined up to kick. But why beat a dead horse now, in April? There will be plenty of time for that this fall.
In the meantime, the Browns recovered about as well as they could after erring with Dawson, by signing unrestricted free-agent kicker Shayne Graham to a one-year contract.
Forget about the other kickers the Browns have looked at thus far in the offseason, or will look at before next season starts. Never mind the other kicker on the roster right now, 23-year-old Brandon Bogotay.
Barring injury, Graham will be the team’s kicker next season. Not only that, but it’s a good bet that he will perform well enough that the Browns will try to work out a multi-year contract with him – or should try to do so. Graham is not Dawson, but in a lot of ways, he has the perfect resume to follow Dawson.
First of all, Graham – who at 35 is three years younger than Dawson – has been very good for a long time. He ranks fifth in NFL history with an 85.4-percent success rate on field goals (245-of-297), and has scored 1,103 points. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And just as important is that he knows what it’s like to kick in Cleveland – and the other the cold, windy AFC North cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore – after spending seven seasons (2003-09) with the Bengals. A 12-year NFL veteran overall, Graham set franchise marks with points in a season (131 in 2005, third-best in the league), field goals in a season (31 in 2007) and field goals in a game (seven in 2007). He made the Pro Bowl in 2005.
Kicking last season in the warmth of the dome-friendly AFC South with the Houston Texans, Graham made 31-of-38 tries (81.5 percent) to set a team record and finished fifth in the NFL with 138 points.
Again, Graham is not as good as Dawson, nor will he make Browns fans forget Dawson. But his presence should at least ease somewhat the abundance of hurt – not to mention the anger, frustration, disappointment and disgust – of not having Dawson around.
And there’s something to be said for that.