Last week a National Football League game ended in a tie: Rams 24, 49ers 24.
Among those inclined to comment on the unusual situation was a football writer who recalled that the last NFL game to end in a tie occurred four years ago, when Shayne Graham “shanked” a kick. A successful kick would have given the Bengals, who were employing Graham, a 16-13 win, but he shanked it, meaning that he was close enough so that he should have succeeded, but he didn’t.
Graham made and missed field goals for the Bengals for seven years. He has also kicked for the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans.
Graham’s current annual salary is just under $1 million, which is a lot of money, but hold on a minute: The salary figure on a contract doesn’t mean much in the NFL, where nothing is guaranteed except that there are no guarantees.
I don’t know how Graham’s salary line read when he was a Cowboy, and he probably doesn’t know, either, since he was a Cowboy for all of 10 days in 2011. After that he was a Dolphin for 11 days. Before that he’d been a member of the NFL team that plays in Washington, D.C., for two weeks. Shortly after leaving the Dolphins, he became a Raven for two weeks.
Last May, Graham signed with the Texans, where he was expected to compete with rookie Randy Bullock for the kicker’s slot. Mr. Graham won the battle when Bullock went on injured reserve, which happens in the NFL, even to kickers. Now, 13 years into a career that has seen him employed by 12 different teams, a couple of them twice, Graham continues to kick for the Texans, who have won eight games while losing just one. Whether he could tell you which team is currently employing him may be in doubt, given the extent of his travels, but Graham’s competence is not. He has hit 15 of the 17 field goals he’s attempted this season. He is, in fact, the third-most accurate kicker in league history. He is also very good at packing quickly, and it seems he has learned to play well with an ever-changing cast of others.
But this week, because a game between two of the few teams for which he hasn’t played ended in a tie, Graham, whose success rate is 86 percent, was remembered for shanking a kick. That is how it is with professional athletes. That is one reason why they are paid a lot of money.