If you didn't catch it on Sunday, Arizona Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil found himself in the record books. In the fourth quarter, he broke the record for punts inside the 20. The record coming into the game was 42, which even a former Cardinals punter had a share in. Ben Graham, the man whose job Zastudil replaced, had 42 in 2009.
Zastudil had six punts downed inside the 20 against the Bears. He has 44 going into Week 17. However, it is no lock that he even ends up with the record or the lead in the NFL. Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt has 42 (the previous record) on the season. Depending on what happens in Week 17, one or both will end up with the lead and the place atop the record books.
Zastudil overtook Graham in the 2011 preseason and was given the job over the incumbent in what was a bit of a surprise. Fans wondered why. This season is proving why. Graham did one thing well -- pin opponents back on a short field, but did not have a huge leg for big punts. Zastudil can do both. He, of course with the help of his coverage team led by Michael Adams and Justin Bethel, can pin opponents back, punt directionally and can get the ball deep, as is evidenced by 46.3 yard average per punt.
However, when your punter is having a season worth noting, it usually is not a good thing. It usually means your team is bad. Punters on great teams, or even good teams, are sort of afterthoughts. Graham got a little bit of publicity locally in 2009 and Andy Lee was recognized with the 13-3 49ers last season, but the "best" punters usually come from teams that aren't so good.
Zastudil, for example, is shining this season because he is getting so much work. He has punted the ball 106 times, which leads the league by far. The second-busiest punter has 87.
Cardinals fans, if they think back far enough, know that the team has had some very good punters. Way back in the 90s there was Rich Camarillo, who went to four Pro Bowls. Jeff Feagles did as well for Arizona, as did Scott Player.
The trend has been good punters on bad teams for a while. Here are the Pro Bowl punters and their teams' records, with playoff teams noted with an asterisk.
2012: Andy Lee (SF, 13-3*) and Shane Lechler (OAK 8-8)
2011: Mat McBriar (DAL 6-10), Lechler (OAK 8-8)
2010: Lee (SF, 8-8), Lechler (OAK, 5-11)
2009: Jeff Feagles (NYG 12-4*), Lechler (OAK 5-11)
2008: Lee (SF, 5-11), Lechler (OAK, 4-12)
2007: McBriar (DAL, 9-7*), Brian Moorman (BUF, 7-9)
2006: Josh Bidwell (TB, 11-5*), Moorman (BUF, 5-11)
2005: Mitch Berger (NO, 8-8), Lechler (OAK, 5-11)
2004: Todd Sauerbrun (CAR, 11-5*), Craig Hentrich (TEN, 12-4*) (this season is weird -- two playoff punters)
2003: Sauerbrun (CAR, 7-9), Chris Hanson (JAX, 6-10)
2002: Sauerbrun (CAR, 1-15), Lechler (OAK, 10-6*)
2001: Scott Player (ARI, 3-13), Darren Bennett (SD, 1-15)
2000: Mitch Berger (MIN, 10-6*), Tom Tupa (NYJ, 8-8)
1999: Matt Turk (WAS, 6-10), Hentrich (TEN, 8-8)
1998: Turk (WAS, 8-7-1), Bryan Barker (JAX, 11-5*)
30 Pro Bowl punters in 15 years and nine from playoff teams. If you go back further the odds are less.
In general, if you have a great punter, you are not a great team.
As such, we can see that Arizona has a great punter...but it is because it is a bad team and a terrible offense.
Zastudil is going to end up near the top in punts attempted for a season. The record is 114. He could tie or break that this weekend against the Niners. All it would take is eight punts, which happens to be the number he had last week.
While that might be a neat feather in his cap, you generally don't want to have a punter with such great numbers. It usually means you are bad.
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