Last night amid the excitement at the North Shore Saloon a microphone was placed in front of me and I was asked a question. Not about the CBA issues for which I had so hastily prepared, but what I thought about waiving Jeff Reed. I can't remember what I said, other than that he had been a great kicker for us, but that he wasn't getting it done this year, and had probably finished himself off with his comments after the Pats game. In retrospect, there is a whole lot more which I wish I had said. Frankly, they probably wouldn't have run it on TV anyhow, as they were looking for short sound-bites, I presume. Here's what I might have said, had I been able to prepare my remarks in advance:
The particular picture I chose was quite deliberate, as was leaving the caption on it. That Jeff would have scored the only points in a very sorry outing against the Browns last season is a fitting thing to remember. He couldn't win games for us by himself, but he could give us a chance. It is also fitting that it was a 42 yard field goal, because he was 0 for 4 between 40 and 49 yards this season. Last year his final percentage was 87.1%. Last season the average for the league was 81.3% of field goals made, which makes Jeff look really good, despite the misses in the Bears game. This year he was at a dismal 68.2% after Sunday night. Enough said.
While looking for those stats, I ran across the following AP article. The crux of the article is that kicking accuracy has steadily and dramatically improved over the years. It contained this astonishing quote:
Hall of Fame kicker Lou "The Toe" Groza made 54.9 percent of his field goal attempts, a percentage that would get him run off the roster today, not enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Well, as they say, that was then, this is now. And Jeff's stellar numbers last year weren't enough to see him through a rough patch this season. Whether it was a permanent rough patch or one that would have shaken itself out here in Pittsburgh over the next few weeks will never be known. I'm guessing that it probably wouldn't have. That doesn't at all preclude him signing elsewhere and kicking really well for another team. That's part of the psychology of it. Of course that won't necessarily happen, but let's just say that although I hope he is signed soon, as a Steelers fan I'm really glad that it wasn't the Bengals.
But the tale of two Jeff Reeds is much more than just about his kicker stats. Jeff Reed the person is an enigma, perhaps all the more so because of some of the very public, and very foolish, things he has done. I don't know him at all, but from what I've heard from those who do, he's a good-hearted guy who does some dumb things. That could probably describe a lot of us. But, unlike most of us, he has the money and the influence to do a lot of good. And he did do a lot. I've heard that he was always the first in line to help out with some of the team charitable events such as taking underprivileged kids shopping for clothes. By his own assessment he did as many or more charity events than any other player. I have no way of knowing that is true, but I've heard similar things from other people. My chorus was the recipient of his help - he signed a jersey for us to auction off at our benefit event. That may not seem like a big deal, but it was a big deal for us, and I gather that a lot of players will charge to do such things. It's really unfortunate that the persona that most people know about has been marred by the dumb stuff. None of which I excuse. All of us have an obligation not to embarrass the organization that we work for, and being part of the public face of an organization like the Steelers makes that all the more important.
But to paraphrase the Bard, I come neither to bury Caesar nor to praise him, but to say farewell. Thank you for the many years of good to outstanding kicking, and I, and hopefully the rest of Steeler Nation, wish you well.