Statistical case against Kluwe doesn’t stack up


The Chris Kluwe case is about a lot more than football. It’s about homophobia and employment law and the way our society is changing to become more tolerant of gays and less tolerant of those who espouse the types of anti-gay views that have long been commonplace in locker rooms.

But it is at least partially about football, and the part about football is the weakest portion of the memo released by the Vikings on Friday night. That portion is headlined, “Kluwe’s 2012 Statistics vs. Career Statistics,” and it attempts to make a case using statistics that Kluwe was declining as a punter. The attempt fails. Badly.

The statistical case against Kluwe begins like this: “Kluwe’s 12 fair catches in 2012 were the third fewest of his career, nearly 3 fair catches below his pre-2012 season average of 14.7. Also, Kluwe’s longest punt of 2012 – 59 yards – was 4 yards shorter than what he averaged during his first seven seasons in the NFL.”

Those are silly criteria by which to judge a punter. A decline in fair catches could easily be the result of a strategy to kick out of bounds, and judging a punter by his longest punt is downright foolish. Anyone who has even a vague understanding of football strategy understands that a punter’s job isn’t just to kick the ball as far as he can. Kluwe had several punts that could have been longer than 59 yards, except that Kluwe dropped them inside the 20-yard line instead of kicking them into the end zone. For instance, in the same game in which Kluwe booted that 59-yarder (Week One against Jacksonville), he also had a 53-yard punt to the Jaguars’ 12-yard line. If Kluwe had kicked that ball 12 yards farther, it would have been a 65-yard punt, his longest in five years. But it also would have been a worse punt because it would have been a touchback, rather than being dropped inside the 20.

The statistical case also criticizes Kluwe for not having enough punts downed inside the 20 — while conveniently overlooking that Kluwe also had the fewest touchbacks of his career. And the statistical case against Kluwe overlooks the fact that Kluwe punted just 72 times in 2012, his fewest punts in any of the seven seasons in which he played all 16 games. The reason, of course, is that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had an MVP season in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards. The Vikings didn’t punt as much as usual because they had a running back churning out first downs. And yet it’s supposed to be Kluwe’s fault that he didn’t get a lot of opportunities to down the ball inside the 20?

There’s no single statistic that can perfectly quantify a punter’s performance, and every punting statistic is affected by things outside the punter’s control like the quality of his coverage units and how often his team punts inside its opponents’ territory. But the best single stat to use for a punter is his net punting average. Kluwe had a career-high 39.7-yard net punting average in his last season with the Vikings. That fact is nowhere to be found in the memo released by the Vikings.

None of this is to say Kluwe wasn’t cut for his performance. You can make a strong case that Jeff Locke, the punter drafted by the Vikings to replace Kluwe in 2013, is a better punter than Kluwe. And he’s unquestionably a cheaper punter than Kluwe; he made $405,000 last year while Kluwe was slated to make $1.4 million. It’s entirely possible that the Vikings are telling the truth when they say they cut Kluwe solely for football reasons.

But the statistical case against Kluwe is weak. If that was the best that the writers of the memo could come up with, they should have left it out.

130 responses to “Statistical case against Kluwe doesn’t stack up

  1. The Vikings Dynasty begins now.

    The whole league will find out soon enough.

    All of you are now faced with the dilemma on how to go on with life.

    Here’s the solution: go on living life with your normal daily habits of mediocrity, but just remember you will never be as great as the Vikings franchise.


    No team you ever cheer for will even have a miniscule amount of greatness compared to what the Vikings will have.

    We define proficiency.

    We are the immaculate prodigy that your franchise will never be.

  2. This headline is all wrong. Here are the stats that matter. The Vikings were paying Kluwe like a top-10 punter ($1.2 mil) for which the received a punter who was 22nd in gross average, 17th in net, and 31st in punts downed inside the 20. Then after he was cut, Kluwe fails to win the job in OAK. Only then, a year after the remarks were allegedly made, does Kluwe come forward with his “outrage.”

    Glad we could straighten that out.

  3. This is the same lame excuse the viking posters were trying to throw out there like they somehow believe anyone is stupid enough to buy it, delusional fan base.

  4. “Expensive”, and “Distraction”….if either of those words describe your punter, he’s not long for the roster

  5. I seem to recall Kluwe shanking a few punts in key situations in 2012. How many shanks were there in 2012 compared to oh say, 2007

    Mind you this was for a team that barely made the playoffs in the 2012 season if memory served, so a few less shanks and they might have won an extra game or two.

    Was a bad punter in 2012? Meh, simply watching a lot of football told me he was an overpaid punter based on what he provided. The Vikings picked up a punter who performed better and saved a million bucks. Kluwe seems to be confusing common sense and Business 101with discrimination.

  6. all it takes is one team signing him to prove the Vikings made a bad “football decision,” but at the end of the day, two other teams cut him that summer and he didn’t catch on anywhere else.

    get over it, bro

  7. If the Vikings were smart they would pay Kluwe and move on from this. They were wrong and with what happened in Miami the NFL should know better. But I am pretty sure the Vikes will be foolish and continue to go on the offensive – what they don’t realize is that opening that Pandora’s box can be very dangerous. Bringing this to a jury will prove disastrous.

    Settle it and pay him his salary he was owed or fight and pay lawyers and then lose in court.

  8. The PFT Poet will tell us all that Kluwe is the only reason that they didn’t win it all last year and now with him gone, they are going to the Super Bowl for the next decade.



  9. Kluwe should take his “case” to the players association. The CBA dictated that he must make far more than Locke would be paid. That made him very expendable. Had the Vikings been allowed to pay him Locke money, he would likely have remained with the team. (That is, if he wasn’t also a tremendous distraction. And that is not just in an LGBT light. Let’s not forget his on-field push for Ray Guy to be voted in to the HOF.)

  10. I agree. They should have left that out. But he was released partially for football reasons.

    Let’s be real… the reason he doesn’t have a job right now and Preifer does is because he himself made outward statements that went public on this issue that were polarizing. Vikings chose not to deal with the media storm (and no other teams will either), and why should they when they didn’t have to? He is entitled to his opinion, but when you make it public (through social media, blogs, whatever), AND you are a public figure, there may be some consequences that come from that. It doesn’t matter if he is right or not.

    Sadly, it’s best to get rid of a guy who is polarizing and keep the guy who says something as polarizing but in hushed tones amongst his employers. If he had somehow managed to catch Preifer saying what he said, then things might be different.

  11. It was a combination of his salary and declining performance… As evidenced by the fact he couldn’t even make the Raiders team the following year

  12. Sp this how the Vikings judge their talent? No wonder they’re at the bottom of the barrel.

  13. Call me old fashion but I absoutley do NOT like hearing about “equal rights” ESPYS is a great example of a 7th round draft pick winning an award because he’s “different”

  14. First, worst mistake by new Vikings staff was not just parting ways with Priefer and avoiding all this mess. Would have diffused all of this. Now, Love Boat Part Duex time….ungh.

  15. So much for the ‘abilities falling off’ theory. The Vikings were looking for an excuse, no matter how flimsy, to can him. You get more slack from a team if you’re a wife beater, a doper or alcoholic, or get arrested. Speak your mind on a hot-button issue and you’re toast.

  16. Imagine that. The Vikings even Fail in their litigation tactics.

    Say it isn’t so (0-4 in the Super Bowl…four embarrassing Fails in the Big Game).

  17. Only one stat matters, he couldn’t make the team with the Raiders Enough Said.

  18. To really know how badly Kluwe punted that year, you need to look at the result of each punt as it pertained to the situation at hand. For example: If the line of scrimmage was the opponents 45 yard line, you obviously want a punt fair-caught, downed, or kicked out of bounds inside the 20 yard line. I saw every punt Kluwe made that year, and there were a number of punts that were shanked (in a similar situation) or were returned for big gains, in part due to lack of hangtime. I believe he may have even punted a couple directly to D. Hester that were returned for long gains and/or touchdowns when the play had called for a directional punt away from Hester. Long or short, when a coach tells you to kick away from a guy who has 4-6 punt or kick returns for TD’s in his career against your team, you damn well better not kick it right to the guy (which he did twice in one game!) It was no surprise when the Vikes had a couple of punters in for tryouts later that week. But let’s not report that, right PFT???!!!

  19. Kluwe himself said he was better than at least 5 punters that played in the NFL during the 2013 season. 5. Clearly letting him go was a mistake and totally unjustified.

  20. The fact RKMC used such weak statistical data to conclude Kluwe was a poor punter destroys the credibility of the entire report. Once you show your bias like that, the illusion of impartiality is revealed to be a self-serving advertisement for future corporate work by a big law firm.

  21. He was cut for conduct detrimental to the team. He put himself and his off field activities first. Was told to tone it back by his employer and he chose to not follow those suggestions.

    Since employment is based on your employer wanting you. Plus you reflecting your employer. He was let go.

  22. How about they dont want a punter to be a distraction….how about they dot want to pay him that much….how about hes not that good….this is opening a can of worms so attorneys can legally rob people in civil courts……

  23. Someone in the Viking PR camp should be fired. The explanation can be very simple. The Vikings draft to their board and they drafted the punter that was top of their board. The rookie beat out Kluwe, and the team did not find a reason to keep two punters. No reason for stats, not very difficult.

  24. Your point is well made with the Statistics, they are weak. If I was on the jury, I would agree. The $ 1 Million savings if the replacement is close to Kluwe’s stats make the other points moot.
    $ 1 Million in savings is a football / cap reason.
    I don’t understand why they even bother to mention the other stats.

  25. .
    Bill Belichick often instructs his punt returner to fair catch the ball, depending on the game scenario. Risking a turnover in order to pick up 8-10 yards when Tom Brady is your QB can be a very poor play.

  26. The statistical case stacks up just fine for an average at best punter making 1.4 million when you can replace him with another average punter making 1 million less.

  27. Over prices, average punter that brought locker room drama. Regardless of who your employer is, you need to leave the political stuff at home. I support his cause, but he was in fact let go for football reasons

  28. We have this lady in my office and she is ok at her job. Not great, not bad, but ok. However, she is non-stop drama, always in the middle of drama and constantly taking my bosses time with her crap. Last week, she was fired. I think they told her it was for poor performance or something like that, but really it was just because she wasn’t worth dealing with.

  29. If you are not the “Ray Guy” of your profession, then learn when to shut your hole. Good riddance. We will survive without Priefer for 2 games. I don’t care what stats they use. Cutting him was the right thing. He cant kickoff while Locke can.

  30. It sounds like the writer slammed the vikings in the dirt and hoisted kluwe up high. Come to the end of the story and find out by law they will probably be fine being they drafted a punter to replace anyway…. wonderful article.. could have just posted the last part…

  31. If someone doesn’t think Kluwe was going downhill, they never watched a Viking game. The report mentions his horrible performances outdoors. Anyone who has youtube can see how bad those punts were.
    In case you didn’t notice, people’s jobs depend on performances by players. To think the Vikings would care about someone speaking out on an issue if he was still performing makes zero sense.
    He was replaced by a person who, in the estimation of management, could do a better job at 1/3 the price.
    Welcome to America.

  32. PFT seems to be going out of its way to paint Kluwe in a good light. Wonder if you will be just as diligent when a player is cut for holding strong religious views that state sanctioned marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

  33. Kluwe was the 27th rated punter in 2012. Bringing his politics that the majority disagree with into the locker room probably didn’t help, either. He comes across as your standard Angry Liberal and seemed to be a locker room cancer.

  34. You won’t get much sympathy for a guy making 1.4 million dollars a year for kicking a football five times a week. Particularly if there is someone on hand who does it better, for a million dollars less. Punters expect to ride that gravy train for 20 years or more, until they’re too fat to waddle out onto the field any longer.

  35. hmmm this is directly from the report..seems to back up the case very well…
    “The record fails does not support the claim that the Vikings released Kluwe because of his activism on behalf of same-sex marriage, but instead because of his declining punting performance in 2012 and potentially because of the distraction caused by Kluwe’s activism as opposed to the substance of such…The objective evidence, in addition to the subjective evaluation of coaches, special teams staff members and external evaluators, simply contradict Kluwe’s view of his performance in 2012. No interviewed witness agreed that Kluwe had a good year in 2012…There is also the issue of Kluwe’s age (31) and salary ($1.3 million) in 2012 and slated salary of $1.4 million in 2013. Several coaching staff members noted that Kluwe’s age, previous knee injury and leg strength showed a punter in decline. Also, the Vikings were able to sign drafted punter (Jeff) Locke for $405,000, less than one third of Kluwe’s scheduled 2013 salary…In grading Kluwe, (Angelo and Hentrich) considered criteria, including but not limited to: (1) get-off time; (2) gross punting average; (3) net punting average; (4) hang time; (5) directional punting; and (6) pooch punting…Angelo said that if he held the title of General Manager for the Minnesota Vikings for the 2012 season, he would have “in all likelihood” released Chris Kluwe as the Vikings punter.”

  36. This article is a joke. Anyone who watched the vikings kluwes last year knew he was falling off. He was shanking badly and not pinning other teams deep. Kickers get cutb all the time for down years, especially expensive ones. y

  37. That was a bad statistical case. All they had to do was point out that Kluwe’s standing in relation to other NFL punters had declined. His statistics weren’t much worse than his career numbers, but the other punters in the NFL were getting better.

  38. A punter that’s hasn’t kicked in two years gets more articles then Peyton manning, tom Brady, Drew Bree’s and Aaron Rodgers combined. When is enough…enough already.

  39. Replace “gays” with “Republicans” or “Christians” in those comments and Kluwe could have cared less. Probably tweet them out to his followers.

    Selective outrage.

  40. Do you know why so many Viking fans are upset over this issue? Because they do not like being forced and dragged into the 21st century. It’s really that simple.

  41. You spent all that time trying to explain that the Vikings were in the wrong to use stats to cut Kluwe but in the end make all the sense in the world when you realized two things. One that Locke is better and two almost a million cheaper. It is also not a crime to decide you don’t want a locker room distraction on your team no matter what the distraction might be related to.

  42. The Vikings finished in last place, are there any other stats we should consider beyond this?

    It seems to me that if your team does not fare well, there is plenty of blame to spread around. Especially in the case of the Vikings where there are endless sources of embracing the suck.

  43. Goodell<Selig<Bettman. What's that tell us? This guy has taken the easiest job in the U.S. and has made it overly-complicated. Way to go Rog!

  44. If you watched any of the the games that year you know Kluwe sucked and was very unclutch.

    If he was a quality NFL punter he would still be in the NFL.

    Kluwe is a hypocrite. Only in it for self promotion and $$$.

    Kluwe, if you read this please go away. You are a fake, using the gay community for personal benefit. Shame on you.

  45. And another word added. #kluwe-ing ” To experience a drop of production or under achieve which would eventually lead to termination of employment, then to be in denial even with evidence of lack of production on a stat sheet, and to attempt to sue former employer over outrageous accusations just to acquire money due to greed.

  46. Once again as a writer your digging deep! There are multiple reasons why Kluwe was cut , and none of which has merit for any sort of lawsuit! Bottom line is, they hard seneral punters come in annually for 3-4 years before Kluwe was replaced! They tried outfit the team. When it became obvious that his performance didn’t justify the off field agenda (s), he became an expendable piece! Bottom line, he has a big up hill battle to prove he was let go for anything other than a declining athlete! Just ask Oakland and others Post Vikings

  47. Kluwe had a contract whose terms were negotiated by his labor union, and it was honored completely. He has no claim for damages, because the constitutional right to free political speech is applied against the government, not individuals, and not public or private companies.

    This is the same reason why companies like Sirius and the Food Network can terminate employs for political speech that they don’t happen agree with, as long as the terms of their contract are met.

    I’d go as far as suggesting that if Kluwe had said something that people disagreed with instead of agreed with this would not be an issue for the vast majority of the people that currently have an issue with the way he was treated.

    This leaves these people open to the accusation acting inconsistently.

  48. Teams cut capable players every year to save money and get younger no matter the performance. The Vikes already got younger at kicker the year before by cutting Longwell. So it wasn’t a shock that they could do that at punter as well.

  49. Since when did football ever have to justify cutting a player ??? What a load of crap- This loser was just too stupid to get the message and shut his big flappin mouth..They tried to tell him- Now he’s just an out-of-football dummy, trying for an extra bite at the golden apple.. Sickening

  50. Funny how when you bring facts like this into the convo people that hate Kluwe fair whatever reason, legit or not, dismiss it. Bottom line is I’d bet diamonds to donuts Kluwe has a job in the nfl somewhere if he just did what airhead fans wanted. ” you are just a kicker , so shut” ugh I hate clowns that say that.

  51. If the Vikes want to show stats to justify the move, they should gone back 5 or 10 years and made a list of all the times a team cut their punter and replaced him with a cheaper guy who may not have even been as good.

    I bet that would be a long list.

    Kluwe was likely getting replaced no matter what. His “activism” cost him his next NFL job, not his last one.

  52. Kluwe wished he was a football player but was only a punter. Kluwe wished he was a rockstar but is only a talentless hack. Kluwe wished he was a gaming god but was only a noob. Forgive poor Chris Kluwe for trying to stay relevant although he never was to you.

  53. People care even less about this buffoon than they do about the Redskins name change. I can’t believe you’re actually defending a guy who made locker room jokes about the Penn State child sex abuse case.

  54. Do you guys get something for enabling a liberal extremist? Statistics do stack up against Kluwe, he was average at best and bottom 10 in many categories. Taking Kluwe’s best season, he would not even be top 16 in todays NFL.

  55. If he made these comments about African Americans, proven or unproven? Would he still have a job? It’s on the same level!!! Boy am I glad my gay Son decided not to play Football!!!!

  56. You’d think with an offense that terrible, that the punter would be the best in the league. He gets to hone his craft every possession. Pathetic-from the owner to the fan base

  57. indyeagle says:
    Jul 18, 2014 11:21 PM
    We have this lady in my office and she is ok at her job. Not great, not bad, but ok. However, she is non-stop drama, always in the middle of drama and constantly taking my bosses time with her crap. Last week, she was fired. I think they told her it was for poor performance or something like that, but really it was just because she wasn’t worth dealing with.


    Did her boss also publically announce to the rest of the company that he wanted to kill all the gays in the world, and get to keep his job?

  58. Thank you for showing how little you really understand the proper use of statistics and the game of football. When you look at Kluwe’s stats you see a punter in decline from the prior year. Also, in the key stats like punts inside the 20 you see he was middle of the pack and bottom half of the league.

    You then look at his salary and see that you have an opportunity to save payroll with minimal risk of a production decrease and a likely outcome of increased production…from a position that is on the field for maybe 8 plays a game.

    And remember, this is the same punter that went to Oakland after getting cut and could not catch on there. Bottom line… middle of the road punters are easy to find and if you are going to put one on your team you want the one that can be coached up to improve performance, not the one that is on the downside of his career.

  59. briang123 says:
    Jul 18, 2014 10:25 PM
    Call me when someone in the NFL comes out against gay marriage. That would be real courage.


    Threatening to kill them all, like Priefer did, isn’t good enough for you?

  60. johnnytarr says:
    Jul 18, 2014 10:08 PM
    The statistic that NO ONE else signed him tells the whole story. The END.


    You’re not familiar with the term “blacklisting”, are you…?

  61. In all seriousness, between this sorry affair, the love boat, whizzinnator, coaches stealing Super Bowl tickets from players, etc., etc. etc., etc., etc., is there any franchise in the history of the NFL that has been more of an embarrassment? I think not.

  62. How many of the Viking fans could find themselves supporting Kluwe…..if only it weren’t an embarrassing Viking story? Kluwe is doing the right thing, and he’s not asking for a lot. He wants the truth told and acknowledged and a reasonable response.

  63. The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.

    Yet liberals want us to believe there are so many being discriminated against. ENOUGH ALREADY!

  64. The fact that Kluwe was scheduled to make $1.45 million in 2013 has everything to do with why Kluwe was released. And yes, he had a poor season in 2012. His lousy punting cost them their only home loss of the 2012 season.

  65. Kluwe was also outkicked in trials for Bengals replacement punter late in the season. If he was so good, he would be playing. NFL teams want to win.

  66. I live in a “hire at will” state, meaning I can be fired at any time, for no reason whatsoever. I wear the wrong color tie, I anger my boss who has a hangover, whatever. Hope Minn has the same law. Regarding off color jokes, political correctness now requires us to watch every word that comes out of our mouths, for fear that someone, somewhere, for some reason, decides to take offense. That is why I winter in South America, and will move there permanently when my girl friend leaves the workforce, with my money. Oh yeh, obummer changed the law on 7-1-14, to make that impossible because no foreign bank will open an account for you because of the reporting requirements, or they get sanctioned.

  67. Isn’t the true test of his ability determined by how many job offers he gets now. After all, how many teams have hired other teams problem children because it will help their team.

  68. NEVER and I repeat NEVER give in and settle with a radical leftist. They are never satisfied and will never go away. You must stand up to their bully tactics and fight them until you bleed every penny from their legal fund. No way the Vikings should settle. Kluwe is losing in the court of public opinion by his own joking about young boys who were raped at the hands of a convicted pedophile. Sick man just sick.

  69. His claim is hat he is not in league now because of the vikings actions (blacklisting).

    So the fact that he is not on an NFL team reinforces Kluwe’s position and make his claim worth millions more.

    A copy of the report, a check, and a confidentiality agreement could have prevented this scandal from being known.

    The vikings PR team is as successful as the rest of the team.

  70. Viking fans living in a state of denial like they do about their team being good. The bigot was suspended and your team was caught trying to cover it up, so your defense of the situation is a moot point. No wonder the minneanderthal monicker sticks.

  71. revelation123 says:
    Jul 18, 2014 10:03 PM
    Sp this how the Vikings judge their talent? No wonder they’re at the bottom of the barrel.
    He’s not getting better so that means he is getting worse. How long do you keep a guy that is getting worse? That is how you evaluate talent. I can get a guy for $1 million less that is better or I can keep a guy that is getting worse. I would think that the guy getting worse should be released.

  72. Zoltan Mesko had comparable numbers than Kluwe in 2012, and better numbers in key categories. The Pats cut him in camp and the Steelers picked him up later and ended up cutting him.

    The stats do make the case for why Kluwe was cut. But you have to look at his salary and performance in comparison to other punters to see why he was cut. The year over year numbers are just a component of the stats.

  73. Sorry, but I don’t believe the blacklisting claim. Any team will take on a player who they think can help them. Let’s say Adrian Peterson got blacklisted by the Vikings. Do you think the other teams would refuse to hire him? He’d be signed to a team the next day.

  74. It’s easy to write that the stats don’t make the case when you pick and choose stats to support your argument. The “memo” also included data regarding Kluwes almost league worst hang time and his inability to punt to his left. For some reason the poor guy can only kick down the middle or to the right side of the field. He was an overpaid liability on the field and a distraction off the field. Good riddance……..when he’s finally gone that is.

  75. I’m sure the author of this memo previously wrote a memo backed by statistics that had a title of something like “Why Christian Ponder is the Future of the NFL Quarterback.”

  76. Sorry, but I don’t believe the blacklisting claim. Any team will take on a player who they think can help them.
    I’m not so sure about this. Kerry Rhodes, despite being a decent safety and not terribly old, has not played football since the gay rumors and incriminating photos emerged. I brought that up not with the Kluwe story in mind but simply to rebut the idea that there cannot possibly be blacklisting in sports. Also see: Bonds, Barry.

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