Shayne Graham put together an impressive 15 year career in the NFL. Seven of those years were spent with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2009, during which he made 86.8 percent of his 204 field goal attempts and 98.8 percent of his 251 extra point attempts.
During the course of his career, Graham spent time with 18 different pro football teams. He began his professional career with the Richmond Speed of the Arena Football League’s developmental league (AF2), after an impressive college career kicking for Virginia Tech. However, he left the Speed after one game and, entered the 2000 NFL Draft, during which he was not selected, and later was signed by the New Orleans Saints.
After being signed and cut by the Saints before the 2000 season, Graham bounced around between the Seahawks, Bills, and Panthers before the Bengals claimed him off waivers in 2003. He finally hit his stride and stuck with the team under new coach Marvin Lewis, making 88 percent of his field goal attempts that year. He held down the position in 2004 and helped the Bengals to a magical 2005 season that saw him receive the Bengals’ first and, to this day, only Pro Bowl berth for a kicker in franchise history.
His production took a bit of a dip in the 2006 season, when made made only 83.3 percent of his 30 field goal attempts and 95.2 of his 42 extra point attempts. However, it was his missed extra point in a December 24 game against the Broncos that everyone remembers. The Bengals lost their playoff spot to the Broncos as a result and were unable to recover against the Steelers the following week.
Unfortunately, the missed extra point is going to be what so many Bengals fans remember. But, Graham actually stuck around with the Bengals for a few more years, making an astounding 91.2 percent of his 34 field goal attempts and not missing an extra point the entire season. It was slightly overshadowed around the league as Patriots’ kicker Adam Vinatieri had an even better season, making 93 percent of his 38 field goal attempts and all of his extra points. Graham’s performance was slightly less impressive than that, but still impressive nonetheless.
2008 was a particularly bad season for the Bengals, although it had very little to do with Graham’s kicking. His 87.5 percent field goal accuracy was down from the previous year, but he made all of his extra points and didn’t appear to be on any sort of down slope. Unfortunately, his numbers continued to deteriorate in 2009, missing five field goals and an extra point over the course of the season. His contract was up at the end of the season and the Bengals decided to move on.
The only other team he spent more than a year with was the New Orleans Saints, with whom he spent the final few games of 2013, all of 2014, and the 2015 offseason. Most recently, he spent the second half of the 2015 season with the Atlanta Falcons before being cut in the 2016 preseason.
Graham never caught on with another team after being cut by the Falcons and recently signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Bengals as a nod to the team that gave him his first and only real chance to succeed in the NFL. The ceremonial contract is actually very out of character for the Bengals, who don’t traditionally celebrate much of their own history. So, it’s a nice change from the norm for the team.
Graham also wrote a touching letter to the NFL, announcing his retirement and pronouncing his love for the Bengals and city of Cincinnati.
The Bengals are a family that I will always be grateful for. To all the coaches, employees, teammates, fans, and friends I made in my time in Cincinnati, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget the smiles from children, the hearts of those that cared more for their community than themselves, and the organizations that welcomed me to being a part of their outreach.
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for an organization that has still yet to set up a ring of honor, has only ever retired one jersey number, and generally doesn’t discuss its history. The Bengals have begun improving in this area lately, recently honoring a number of former Bengals greats before the team’s Week 13 win over the Eagles. Graham was part of this group, along with fellow former Bengals kicker Jim Breech. Graham’s football career is now officially ending in the city where he was the most successful in the NFL.
Here’s to hoping for more nods to the past in the future.