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If Vikings pick punters ‘strictly based on performance,’ they should bring back Kluwe

Chris Kluwe
Minnesota VikingsChris Kluwe

In the wake of Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s advocacy of gay marriage, Vikings Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer publicly said he was tired of Kluwe-related distractions, privately told Kluwe that the gays should be rounded up and nuked, and fired Kluwe and replaced him with an untested rookie.

Despite the timing of all these events, the Vikings vehemently denied that Kluwe was fired due to his activism. The Vikings released a statementassuring Minnesotans:

Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.

There you have it.  Not salary. Not age (he was 31, relatively young for punters). Not activism. “Strictly based his football performance.” The Vikings assured us that they run a pure meritocracy, and Kluwe’s performance just wasn’t up to snuff.

But that was always a head-scratcher. After all, the statistics show that Kluwe was the best punter in Vikings history. For instance, Kluwe is at the top of the heap in Vikings history in career punt average, at 44.4 yards per punt. Of course, punting is also about placement, but Kluwe is also number one in Vikings history in punts placed inside the 20-yard line.

Despite Kluwe’s impressive performace-based records, Kluwe was fired and replaced by Jeff Locke, a rookie who was completely untested in the NFL. Priefer assured Vikings fans that Locke had bested Kluwe during a brief closed-door punt-off at the Vikings’ practice facility, and therefore was given the job. So, while Kluwe was statistically the best punter in Vikings history, Locke was, Coach Priefer assured us, going to be even better. Kluwe wasn’t even get a chance to compete for his job in public at training camp.  One closed-door punt-off supervised by Priefer, and the most accomplished punter in Vikings history was shown the door.

How is that working out for Priefer and the Vikings? Kluwe’s replacement Jeff Locke wasnamed by the wonky analysts at Pro Football Focus as the single worst punter in the NFL. Bleacher Report elaborates:

While Kluwe may have been outspoken and a hassle at times, he certainly was able to get the job done from a punting perspective, something Locke has not been able to do through nearly two seasons.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Locke has received a combined rating of negative-20.8 since he entered the league in 2013, which is far and away the worst rating of any punter during this time fame. His negative-10.2 rating this season ranks dead last among 33 analyzed punters.

If it’s really true that Kluwe was replaced by Locke “strictly based on his football performance,” maybe Coach Priefer, or Priefer’s replacement, should be bringing back Kluwe for the 2015 season.

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/05/2015 - 11:07 am.

    apples to oranges

    What was Kluwe’s PFF rating? Without that this article is noting more than conjecture and hearsay. Either list both punters career yards per punt or the PFF rating for both not one for Kluwe and the other for Locke. If Kluwe was so good why was he not playing for anyone this year?

    • Submitted by jason myron on 01/05/2015 - 04:27 pm.

      Conjecture and hearsay?

      Do you have any idea of the records that Kluwe holds for the Vikings?

      #1 Career Punt Avg., 44.4, 2005–2012
      #1, #3, #5 Season Punt Avg., 47.6 / 45.7 / 44.7, 2008 / 2011 / 2007
      #1 Rookie Season Punt Avg., 44.1, 2005
      #1, #3 Game Punt Avg., 57.5 / 54.3, 2007 / 2005
      #1 Rookie Game Punt Avg., 54.3, 2005
      #1 Career Playoff Punt Avg., 45.2, 2005–2012
      #1 Most Punts in a Season, 93, 2006
      #1 Average Punts per Season, 78, 2005–2012
      #1 Career Punts Inside 20, 198, 2005–2012
      #1, #2, #5 Season Punts Inside 20, 34 / 32 / 28, 2007 / 2010 / 2006
      #1 Game Punts Inside 20, 5, 2007
      #2 Career Blocked Punts, 1, 2005–2012
      #2 Career Punts, 623, 2005–2012
      #2 Rookie Season Punts, 71, 2005
      #2 Season Fewest Touchbacks, 2, 2012
      #2 Career Net Yds. Avg., 37.2, 2005–2012
      #2, #3 Season Net Yds. Avg., 39.7 / 38.9, 2012 / 2010
      #3 Game Net Avg., 47.5, 2011
      #3 Punts in a Game, 10, 2006 / 2010

      Locke is currently ranked 23rd out of 32 punters in the NFL.
      Kluwe was blackballed, plain and simple. If you want to keep your head buried in the sand simply because it makes it easier to justify your political ideology, be my guest, just don’t expect the rest of us to join you.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/06/2015 - 08:55 am.

        buried in sand

        Compare apples to apples then get back to me with real facts otherwise none of this matters. Why do you continue to rank Kluwe against only Vikings punters and rank Locke against other nfl punters? Simple, it’s because you’d be proven wrong. Kluwe can’t get a job because he isn’t good enough anymore plain and simple and refuses to sign for what he is worth because he is unwilling to accept it.

  2. Submitted by Joe Loveland on 01/05/2015 - 12:37 pm.

    Why Can’t Kluwe Get Another Job?

    Thanks for your comment. As noted, Kluwe is #1 in Vikings history in a number of key categories. And as noted, football geeks at places like Bleacher Report and Pro Football Focus say Locke has had a rough year. But you are correct, I can’t offer you a direct apples-to-apples PFF comparison, because I don’t subscribe to PFF.

    Why isn’t Kluwe playing on another team? Kluwe himself has said that salary is one of the factors, though the Vikings themselves deny that in their stated rationale. If Kluwe wasn’t speaking out about human rights, most observers say his chances would be better. That’s impossible to prove, but given the sequence of events it seems a distinct possibility that his political activism hurts his chances of getting rehired.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/06/2015 - 09:02 am.

      Salary was clearly not a factor since the Vikings had the cap room available to sign him if they wanted. Kluwe’s salary he would have been worth is what the problem since his skill level was declined to the level where he would not make as much as he thought he should so salary was an issue to Kluwe not the Vikings. His activism also has nothing to do with his ability to get a job since if he was better than any other punter in the nfl then someone would have signed him. It’s about winning games in the nfl period.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/06/2015 - 12:48 pm.

        Kluwe and Locke are both below-average NFL punters.

        It will be interesting to see if the Vikes bring in challengers to Locke and Blair Walsh (least accurate full-time kicker in the league this year).

        • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/06/2015 - 01:11 pm.

          challengers

          I doubt they would bring anyone in yet to challenge them since they are pretty young yet. Generally an off season is overlooked. In the case of Walsh you would have to overlook the benefit of his strong leg on kickoffs. The average kickoff return for Walsh is extremely low since he usually kicks it long enough to cause a touchback.

          • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/06/2015 - 01:52 pm.

            Walsh was 19th in average kickoff distance this year, so the reality with Walsh is that after his rookie season, he’s produced two below-average seasons.

            • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/07/2015 - 11:05 am.

              kickoff distance

              Is that total distance or net? What or who is your source of data? Net distance would also have a lot to do with the other 10 players on the field for the Vikings as well since they would need to effectively provide kick coverage. Where does Walsh rank among nfl kickers for number of touchbacks?

              • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/07/2015 - 02:50 pm.

                Here’s the source of data — it’s total distance.

                http://www.footballdb.com/stats/stats.html?lg=NFL&yr=2014&mode=O&conf=&sort=koavg

                • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/08/2015 - 09:44 am.

                  data

                  Based on total kick distance I’d say he’s about the middle of the pack so not too terrible. 18 kickers had longer average kicks and 13 had shorter average kicks. Look at the number of returns. Pretty low by the looks of things. The average length of kick isn’t the whole story. Walsh from day one has always been known for having a strong leg and that appears to still be true since the kicker with the longest average was only 3.5 yards longer. Many factors go into average distance as well. Penalties applied to the teams would be one which may affect kick distance. I’m sure you can spin it your way if you want to but one seasons data that can easily be affected by how the rest of the team plays and also other teams doesn’t mean he is terrible by any means.

  3. Submitted by Brad Christensen on 01/05/2015 - 05:16 pm.

    Tarkenton

    With the logic displayed in this article, since Fran Tarkenton has most Viking passing records he should still be the quarterback. Let it go, Kluwe was on the downside, this happens in football. You even stated you didn’t have the facts, you just have an agenda.

    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 01/06/2015 - 07:28 am.

      Agenda: As did the people got rid of Kluwe?

      Let’s be fair then.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 01/06/2015 - 08:59 am.

      tark

      Yep. Until the author is willing to compare apples to apples it is pretty clear there is an agenda here. Where did Kluwe rank amongst nfl punters his final season?

  4. Submitted by Steve Rose on 01/06/2015 - 09:27 am.

    Greg Coleman, Coffin Corner

    Vikings punter 1978 through 1987.

    When you kick to the corner, you contribute to your team’s success at the expense of your average punt distance. Due to his speed, Coleman was a threat to run the ball for a first down rather than punting away. Another asset that doesn’t show up on a string of punting accolades. He was also a leader on the team. For these reasons and others, he was selected by fans to be a member of the Vikings 40th anniversary team.

    If we are judging punters on past performance, I am in favor of recruiting Greg Coleman for the 2015 Vikings roster.

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