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Buffalo Bills 2021 Year in review: Punter Matt Haack

Year three of my proprietary punting stat!

Where has the time gone? This is officially year three of my proprietary punting stat. Why would anyone make a proprietary punting stat, you ask? Because normal punting stats are terrible (see explanation below). Let’s take my super-mega-awesome and not at all insane metric and apply it to Buffalo Bills punter Matt Haack. Was he as bad as most fans think? Let’s assume my thing is a better indicator than everyone else’s and find out!

Check out the other times I’ve used this; here, here, and here.


The Usual Stats

Let’s do some fast figures for Matt Haack using the normal stats. I’ll rip apart the usual stats to make sure you’re all aware of why I don’t like them all that much along the way. If you clicked the links above, you likely noticed I ran through this exercise with Matt Haack after Buffalo signed him last year and came to the conclusion he was pretty average in most of the usual measures. How did he fare this year.

For qualifying punters (20 or more punts in a season), Haack had the fourth-worst punting average at 42.9 yards per punt. While that’s “bad” it’s not incredibly so. He’s literally the first punter greater than one standard deviation away from the average of 45.8 yards per punt. To put that into better perspective, of the 35 qualifying players, 26 of them had an average within a four-yard range. This is Exhibit A on why punting stats suck.

Haack doesn’t fare any better with net average, remaining fourth worst at 38.3 yards per punt. This metric starts to dive into another big reason traditional stats are pretty poor. Net average is impacted by coverage unit ability, coaching decisions, etc.

Here’s some quick hitters for fun. As a disclaimer, the same complaints above apply here as well:

  • Haack was 27th in punts inside the 20 with 18 of those.
  • No one in the league had a higher rate of touchbacks than Haack at 13%. That’s generally considered undesirable.
  • Combining those last two points strongly suggests Haack wasn’t very good at pinning the other team deep.
  • Haack was also 27th in fair-catch rate, with 21% of his punts ending in that manner.

To summarize the traditional stats, Haack appears to have had a rough year. Let’s dive into my proprietary measure to see if there’s a different story.

Bad Punt Metric

For newcomers, this measure is intended to isolate ONLY the distance of the punt and classify them as either “acceptable” or “bad.” However, calling a punt “bad” depends on context. The primary context is field position at the time of the punt. There are three ways to have a punt labeled as “bad.”

  • All punts in opponent territory are considered bad.
  • For punts between your own 1-yard line and 24-yard line, there’s no reason to not kick it deeper. A punt in this zone is called “bad” if it travels 45 yards or less. League average was 45.8 yards per punt for qualifying punters. When the situation clearly and objectively calls for a punt longer than league average you should deliver it.
  • Between your own 25- and 49-yard line, I did a little more work (see previous articles). Punts that are 40 yards or less are considered “bad” in this range.

Here’s a table to look at.

The list samples ten of the 35 qualifying punters arranged in order of their average punting distance. A.J. Cole had the highest average in the league this year, Joseph Charlton had the worst. Lachlan Edwards and Jamie Gillan were added as they were the fringes of the group within one standard deviation for punting average. I included Matt Haack for obvious reasons, and Corey Bojorquez for different obvious reasons. The rest of the group was selected on Twitter (if you’re part of that group and reading this, thank you).

With all that out of the way this is really straightforward, so enjoy the table. Matt Haack had a rough 2020 when I took a look during free agency. Even knowing that, this is horrendous. Let’s start with the blue zone (own 25-49). At 31.3% bad punting, this is quite a bit worse than the average of the sample group. He’s not the worst, but this isn’t good. And this is the best news of the article.

My personal focus on this metric is the red section (own 1-24). There is zero reason I can think of that a punter wouldn’t be asked to boom it. I’m not saying outkick the coverage, but over 45 yards shouldn’t be an issue. Think of this, from the 24 yard line you could have a 75-yarder and still not have a touchback. In this part of the table, I think the information speaks for itself and it doesn’t speak kindly.


Summary

I don’t think it matters what stats you use or the eye test. The story is the same regardless of whichever you choose.