Info Design Final Project

For my final project for my 7-week Information Design class, I will be attempting to answer a question: How far have NFL kickers come over the years? But more importantly, why does it seem like they’re missing now more than normal?

I’m a huge sports guy. It’s something that I pay attention to every day, something I have a plethora of conversations about, and the industry I want to work in down the road. So, it only made sense for me to do this project on something related to my sports passion. I was watching the Sunday afternoon game this past weekend of my beloved Cincinnati Bengals facing the Green Bay Packers. During the game, in the final three minutes of the game and in overtime, the Packers had 3 different opportunities to win the game with a field goal (with arguably one of the greatest kickers the sport has ever seen) and missed all three. Additionally, the Bengals had two different opportunities in that same time span to win the game, and missed both attempts. It wasn’t until Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby’s fourth attempt in that time span that he made the game-winning kick. It was a sad moment as a Bengals fan to see my team lose, but in reality, the team shouldn’t have even been in that opportunity to win in the first place. Crosby is supposed to make that first field goal and win, not miss three in a row. So, it begged me to ponder the question: how do guys like this seemingly miss so often, especially when it matters most?

In this project, I will be looking at the history of kicking in the National Football League, where it’s changed over time, how the kickers themselves have improved, how technology has improved, how our understanding of the science behind placekicking has improved, and why it seems like the kickers are still missing so frequently. I plan to use a series of line graphs to explore the change in kicking success over time, as well as some scatter plots to show the relationship between distance and success, and the change in kicking success over time from certain distances, while also looking through the history of in-game kicks and the average distance we can rely on kickers to make any given kick. Additionally, I’d like to make a large part of the project explore how kickers perform during “clutch time,” when attempting to tie or win the game in the late minutes/seconds of a game, and also exploring how a young, inexperienced kicker might perform under those circumstances in comparison to a middle-aged, in-their-prime kicker and in comparison to an older, tail-end of their career kicker, and see how much the pressure of a kick can affect different people.

I’ll be using the following pages to gather data and information on the subject:

NFL Rulebook Through The Years: https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/evolution-of-the-nfl-rules/

Justin Tucker’s NFL Record and Why No One Has Kicked That Far: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/30/sports/football/nfl-field-goal-record.html

Five Thirty Eight’s Data on Kickers Over Time: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/kickers-are-forever/

Pro Football Reference’s Data on Collective Kickers Throughout History:https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/NFL/kicking.htm

Student at New York University. Passionate about visual art and the intersection between technology and sports.