After issuing a less-than-ringing endorsement Sunday, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he’s sticking with embattled kicker Graham Gano.
Gano missed his third critical kick of the season in Sunday’s 41-38 loss at New Orleans – an unsuccessful extra point after the Panthers had rallied to close within 31-30.
Gano missed a potential game-winning 50-yard field goal in a 21-20 loss at Denver in the season opener. He also was off on a 43-yarder before halftime in a 17-14 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 5.
Asked about Gano following Sunday’s defeat at the Superdome, Rivera said: “Well, we’ll see.”
But less than 24 hours later, Rivera came to his weekly press conference armed with stats backing his kicker.
“We’re going to stand pat,” Rivera said. “If you go back and you evaluate it as an extra-point kicker, he’s right about 95 percent, which is a little bit more than league average I believe. And then in clutch kicks, again he’s well above the league average.”
Gano has made 67 of 71 extra points since the NFL moved the spot back 13 yards last season. That’s a 94.4 percent success rate that is nearly identical to the league-wide percentage (94.2) on PATs last season.
Gano said he appreciated the vote of confidence from Rivera, but wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about.
“I don’t really expect anything different. I’ve been hitting the ball well. I feel good about the way I’m kicking,” Gano said. “I think it’s kind of funny everybody’s making a big deal.”
Rivera went on to say that Gano’s misses were “not what cost you football games,” before adding: “There was one in Denver, the opener. But other than that he’s been very solid for us and he’s done a good job.”
Gano was the NFL leader in touchbacks (74.2 percent) from 2013-2015. That number has dropped slightly this season with Gano being asked to kick more “mortar” kicks to take advantage of the new touchback rule.
But Gano says his confidence remains high.
“My confidence is great. I honestly feel like I’m having a good year,” he said. “I’ll continue to work and get better and make all these kicks.”