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After Erratic Season, Gano Vows to Come Back Strong

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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan believes in the kicker and the kicker believes in himself.

The football, however, does not believe in splitting the uprights.

Graham Gano's erratic season reached its nadir in the season finale when he missed a 30-yard field goal try in an eventual 17-14 loss to the New York Giants. There were no excuses, no mitigating factors, just a simple miss of a short field goal.

The miss was Gano's 11th of the season, tying the Miami Dolphins' Dan Carpenter for the most of any kicker, and his conversion rate of .686 was the lowest among those with more than a minimal number of tries. Gano hit 24 of 35 tries, Carpenter 30 of 41 (.750).

Shanahan said he likes Gano's physical attributes and blamed the misses on confidence and focus.

Gano, before he checked out of the Redskins' facility on Monday, seemed to take the other tack.

"I never had a problem mentally. I'm very mentally strong. I think it's more so just technique. I can put it through from 60-plus but I think it's just accuracy. I've got to work on my mechanics," he said.

Maybe he can hit from 60 yards but he never made a field goal of 50 yards or longer. He missed all three attempts from that range.

How did he stack up against other kickers? Journeyman Shayne Graham, kicking briefly for the New York Giants and then for the New England Patriots with Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve, made all 12 of his field goal attempts to top all kickers. Ryan Longwell of the Minnesota Vikings posted a .944 success rate, hitting 17 of 18 field goals. Former Redskin (and Gano precedessor) Shaun Suisham, signed to replace Jeff Reed in Pittsburgh, made 14 of 15 (.933) for the Steelers.

Gano promised to work on his mechanics in the off-season and said he would alter his approach to the ball from three steps to two. He said he believed he now had the leg strength to work with two steps.

"I'm looking forward to next season. I'm just going to train and get better," he said.

The Redskins never wavered in their support of Gano, who joined the club late in 2009. The Redskins had no other kicker in training camp and backed him despite some critical misses.

For a team that lost four games by three points or fewer, the margin for error here is slim.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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