Ok, the headline is obviously a lie. He didn't save the NFL, he saved one pointless, insignificant stat.
A couple of recent threads got me thinking about NFL statistics, how they are misused, misunderstood and taken out of context. My least favorite, as I've mentioned several times, is 'this team is 45-2 when this player runs for 100 yards'. I won't go off on my typical rant about that particular stupid stat. Instead I'll give you a great example of a stat that, by its very definition, is useless. Most accurate FG kicker in NFL history (henceforth known as MAFGKiNFLH, a terrible acronym for a useless stat).
Who holds the NFL record for highest career yards per carry? That would be former Broncos punter Jim Krieg with 63.0 (to point out the obvious, he had one career carry for 63 yards). Any kind of average or percentage stat needs a minimum, that's where MAFGKiNFLH fails. The minimum to qualify for MAFGKiNFLH (yes, I'm going to repeat MAFGKiNFLH ad nauseum through this entire article) is 100 FG attempts, way too low. A kicker can easily meet that in 4-5 years, meaning that he is eligible for MAFGKiNFLH while still in his prime. If you were to chart the average kickers' career FG pct I would guess it peaks somewhere around years 3-7. But no matter where it peaks, it always drops drastically right before he leaves the league for good. That's why he's leaving the league, he's no longer making FGs.
So what we end up with is a constantly rotating leaderboard. For decades the MAFGKiNFLH was whatever player reached 100 attempts most recently. An average kicker reaches 100, probably the best 100 FGs of his life, becomes MAFGKiNFLH then immediately falls back to the pack as he ages and in a year or two is overtaken by the next average kicker. As proof of this assertion, I offer the current MAFGKiNFLH leaderboard http://www.pro-football-reference.co...erc_career.htm, where 22 of the top 25 are active players.
So how does this cycle stop? A kicker has to leave the league before his percentage starts to drop with the inevitable physical decline brought on by the aging process. That means that while he's still one of the best kickers in the game he has to either a) retire, b) suffer a career ending injury (not common among kickers) or c) be such a pain that he will be cut immediately when his numbers start to decline, instead of hanging around for years after he's well past his prime as most kickers do.
That brings us back to Mike Vanderjagt. He's not the MAFGKiNFLH at the moment, that distinction belongs to Nate Kaeding, by 34/1000ths of a percent. Kaeding isn't just an average kicker that happened to get to 100, he's pretty good. But he's still just keeping the liquored up kicker's seat warm. As Kaeding declines with age, Vanderjagt will reclaim the crown. Like Kaeding, other kickers will temporarily reach MAFGKiNFLH status, but now, every kicker that reaches 100 FG attempts won't automatically become MAFGKiNFLH, he'll have to earn it. Because Mike Vanderjagt is annoying. Thanks Mike.