You said it, Coach.
While Jim Calhoun may have little-to-nothing to do with members of the Minnesota Vikings, I’d be more than happy to introduce the former UConn Huskies coach to Chris Kluwe, because no one needs to “shut up” more than Kluwe these days.
While I’ll support pretty much any social activist and appreciate Kluwe’s courage to stand up for what he believes in, the Vikings punter (that is, the football player) is becoming harder and harder to root for after his recent comments during the NFL draft.
Kluwe reportedly told Pro Football Talk that his employer, the Vikings, may cut ties with him this offseason because he speaks “out on human rights,” which, he believes, “has a chance of getting you cut.” Sure enough, the Vikes drafted UCLA’s stud punter (yes, “stud” and “punter” just went together) Jeff Locke in the fifth round. As of Monday afternoon, Kluwe, too, is a Viking — not a very welcoming one, at that.
Let’s first check out some numbers. As for the good: Kluwe’s net average in 2012 was a career-best 39.7. Sure, that’s great that he’s hitting personal milestones, but that net average was good for just 18th in the NFL. Kluwe averaged just 45.0 yards per punt in 2012 — good for 24th in the NFL.
Of 72 punts, he put just 18 inside the 20. There are many variables involved in this stat, but by comparison, four other punters in the 70-74 punts range averaged over 26 punts inside the 20. Only two other “full-time” punters had lower season-long punts than Kluwe’s 59-yarder in the season-opener against the Jaguars.
Basically, Kluwe’s ability to punt isn’t up to par and he’s not very valuable to the Minnesota Vikings franchise.
He understands a lot of what’s going on around the world in terms of human rights and activism, so why is it hard for him to understand that his football team is trying to get better?
That the NFL is a business?
That his team — like any other in pro sports — is run by businessmen who want to have the best players?
That NFL teams want to win football games?
That his team needs to improve its special teams, and that having the league’s 24th-ranked punter isn’t doing much good?
If the NFL has proven anything over the years, it’s that players can do or say just about anything (within the law or not) and remain on a team as long as they are producing. Kluwe isn’t producing, and now he’s relegated to whining. Scratch that — he’s making excuses and he’s whining. What kind of message does that send to your team? Who would want an excuses-making whiner in their locker room?
As for Locke, the kid would put pressure on just about any punter in the league, no matter what they tweet. A product of Kluwe’s very own UCLA, Locke was the first punter drafted this year after four years as the Bruins’ starting punter. While he averaged just over 43 yards per punt in 2012, he was third in the country in yards (3,337) and was in the top three slots among punters on many pre-draft rankings. Locke forced 36 fair catches and dropped 34 attempts inside the opposition’s 20. He can also kick field goals (although the Vikes are all set with Blair Walsh) and add depth on kickoffs, as he rattled off 68 touchbacks in 89 attempts in 2012.
It was bad enough that the 10-6 Vikings had a punter who couldn’t really punt the ball well — but now, they’ve got a sour veteran loading excuses in the proverbial chamber, pointing the finger at ownership when he should be pointing at his right foot.