Apologizing to and appreciating Graham Gano

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

I'm sorry.

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano arrived at a weird time. Forced to take over for an ill-equipped Justin Medlock, he was the career 74-percent kicker that was supposed to make us forget that the organization had jettisoned its all-time great kicker John Kasay and turn to an overpaid Olindo Mare. The transition wasn't easy, but it's time to apologize to the team's most overlooked player.

Gano's entrance to the Panthers wasn't smooth. He shanked an extra point in his first game and was only tested from 23 yards. It was clear he could kick off, but it didn't appear there was anything special about him. If Carolina wanted an inaccurate kicker with a big leg why didn't they just sign Rhys Lloyd again?

The excuses we heard from Gano were interesting. A swirling wind and terrible field in Washington was pegged as the reason for his early-career failings, but this seemed like a stretch at best. A miss here or there sure, but 25 missed field goals in two years? There's no way that's attributable to field alone.

Now we're left wondering if he was right. What if Gano's struggles really were due to kicking in Washington?

In 2013 there's no question that Graham Gano, the unlikely signing from a year ago, has become one of the best all-around kickers in the NFL. He's one of only four players to have 100-percent accuracy this year, and one of two that has attempted two or more 50+ yard field goals without a miss. Gano also leads the NFL in touchback percentage, with 83.3-percent of his kickoffs being unreturnable.

Gano may have played in just 13 games for Carolina, but it's clear that a change of scenery was everything for him. He's happy in Charlotte, kicking well and easing the wounds caused by the loss of Kasay. I heartily apologize for being so hard on Gano in those early days, and look forward to his future with the Panthers.

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