Washington Redskins: Why Keeping Graham Gano Was Right Move for Kicking Game

Chuck CarrollContributor IIIAugust 15, 2011

The Washington Redskins will rely on the leg of Graham Gano once again this season.
The Washington Redskins will rely on the leg of Graham Gano once again this season.Larry French/Getty Images

ASHBURN, VAThe Washington Redskins unofficially closed the door on their preseason kicking competition by releasing Shayne Graham on Sunday.

It was the right move and Graham Gano is the right man for the job despite a rocky 2010 campaign.

Graham's release comes as no surprise following his poor performance in Friday night's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Graham, who is the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, was anything other than on point.  He shanked a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left, negating any points on an otherwise impressive opening offensive drive.

He also missed a 49-yard attempt in the closing seconds of the first half.

Following the game, head coach Mike Shanahan stated the obvious in regards to Graham's performance.

"You look for opportunities in this game and he didn’t take advantage of those opportunities,” Shanahan said. “And Graham (Gano) did take advantage of those opportunities today.”

But Gano didn't exactly take advantage of his opportunities last season. Yet, Shanahan and the Redskins stood by the young kicker.

The coach has an affinity for young players and will give plenty of rope if he sees potential in them.

Say what you will about this upcoming season, but it's clear Shanahan is building toward the future.  And to do that you need players who will improve over time and gel as a unit.

It's clear Gano is willing to do what it takes to improve. You need not look any further than his poor kicking performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December to know what type of drive he has.

He was 1-for-3 in that contest and many thought that would be the end of his career in Washington. He may have thought so as well, but he wasn't going down without a fight.

Instead of wallowing in defeat, Gano ate dinner with his wife and drove to Redskins Park where he spent the remainder of the night watching footage from the game, trying to identify what went wrong.

Shanahan and special teams coordinator Danny Smith kept the faith in their kicker and opted not to make a switch.

Two weeks later Gano would reward them by earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gano's work ethic carried over into the offseason where he and long snapper Nick Sundberg spent time at a special teams camp in Arizona.

Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler was also among those who attended the camp.

It remains to be seen whether the camp and strong preseason performance thus far will translate into improved results for Gano in the regular season.

If the Florida State product struggles again he won't be long for the Redskins roster. At the top of the article I wrote "unofficially closed" the door on the kicking competition. 

Gano will have a little slack, but not nearly as much as last season when he connected on just 68 percent of his kicks.

“Right now, I don’t see anybody who’s out there to compete against him," Shanahan stated Sunday. "But you never know what happens down the road.”

For now it's the right decision. Continuity will bring results down the stretch. And maybe, just maybe, Friday night's win is a precursor of things to come this year.

Finding the end zone would improve their chances. But if not, Gano has the Redskins covered.

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