BEREA: Phil Dawson is knocking on the door to join the top five kickers in the AFC in Pro Bowl fan voting. It’ll be a shame if Browns fans don’t kick it down.
According to the NFL’s data tabulated through Tuesday, Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders, Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens, Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots, Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos and Shaun Suisham of the Pittsburgh Steelers received the most votes among AFC kickers. Janikowski led the pack with 90,523 votes, and Suisham was fifth with 31,990 votes.
Is Dawson being Punk’d?
The final results of the fan voting count one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that will represent the AFC and NFC in the Pro Bowl, which will be held Jan. 27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The votes of players and coaches make up the other two-thirds.
Fans can vote through Dec. 17 at www.nfl.com/probowl. The league only reveals the top-five vote getters at each position, though I’ve been told Dawson is close to cracking the top five. It’ll be absurd if he doesn’t receive a surge of support by the time the final votes are tallied.
Browns punter Reggie Hodges has become the voice of reason on this subject. He has launched an unofficial Twitter campaign to wake up Browns fans. He can’t believe they voted former Browns running back Peyton Hillis onto the cover of the Madden NFL 12 video game without giving Dawson the proper love.
“Y’all voted Hillis to Madden cover!” Hodges tweeted this week. “Get a real Brown to the Pro-Bowl!!”
Dawson has made all 21 of his field-goal attempts this season, and he has a streak of 27 in a row without a miss dating to last season. He’s the only full-time kicker in the NFL who hasn’t missed this season.
The 37-year-old Dawson and the Browns (3-8) will visit Janikowski and the Raiders (3-8) on Sunday. Janikowski has converted 23-of-24 field goals this season with his only miss coming from 64 yards. Dawson has made five field goals of 50 yards or longer this season. Janikowski has made three.
“Phil’s 21-of-21,” Hodges said. “His stat line is ridiculous. We’ve had five rain games already. Three of those games have had plus-30 mph winds at home, and he’s made from plus-50 yards in all those games. He hit three 50-yarders in one game. His whole stat line is incredible. If anybody deserves it, it’s him.
“For some reason, he wasn’t in the top-five in fan votes, and that’s ridiculous to me. As big a fan base as Cleveland is and how they rally around the Browns? I mean he’s Mr. Browns. That’s the Cleveland Brown right there, and I want to see him get into the Pro Bowl.”
The only remaining player from the 1999 expansion team, Dawson hasn’t made a Pro Bowl yet. His 84.1 career field-goal percentage ranks sixth all time in NFL history and first in the franchise’s record books. Still, he hasn’t received the recognition on a national level because he has become a victim of playing for a perennial loser.
“I know the feedback that I get from other kickers and coaches every week and it’s very positive,” Dawson said. “When they show respect that makes you feel good. I don’t know what the reason is.”
The wet weather in Oakland might become a huge factor in the game Sunday. But Dawson, who had so many cleats packed for the trip to the Bay Area by Friday afternoon that he couldn’t even name the exact number, is the best bad-weather kicker in the league.
“I just don’t think guys understand how difficult it is kicking in [Cleveland Browns Stadium] week in and week out,” Hodges said. “It is super tough. You’ve seen the weather this year. It’s been a mess, and for him to perform like he is, it’s incredible.”
It’s just another reason he should be bound for Hawaii in January as a Pro Bowler.
“With a family of five, any free vacation you can go on, it’s tremendous, and that would save me some coin for the rest of the offseason,” Dawson said. “That’s obviously something I’d like to experience. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time. There’s been some years in the past that I thought I might have a chance, and it just didn’t happen. This is another one of those years. So we’ll see how it goes, and at the end of the day, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed. But if the guys in the locker room have respect for what I did for them, I’m good with that.”
Like the past two years, Dawson faces the realistic possibility that this could be his last season with the Browns. After failing to sign Dawson to a multiyear deal, the organization has used its franchise tag on him twice. However, a third time is unrealistic because the Browns would need to pay him the average salary of the top five players in the league, an amount that could be in the ballpark of $15 million.
Plus, new CEO Joe Banner has a reputation for parting ways with older players. Dawson, who’s making $3.81 million this season, said he has learned not to worry about his uncertain future.
Cleveland fans, on the other hand, should worry about doing their part to send him to the Pro Bowl. It might be their last chance to get him there as a member of the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.