EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Not many NFL players have career years in their 12th season, but that's exactly what Josh Brown said he had in 2014.
"Hands down," Brown said today.
Who are we to argue? While Odell Beckham Jr. and several others received far more attention, the Giants' placekicker quietly had a superb season. Brown made 24 of 26 field goal attempts, a 92.3 percent success rate that was the highest in Giants history for a kicker with a minimum of 14 attempts. One of his misses was a block last week against the Rams.
>> VIEW JOSH BROWN'S SEASON STATS
Brown also made all 44 of his extra point tries for 116 points, the third-highest total of his career (he scored 127 with Seattle in 2007 and 125 with St. Louis in 2010). He was tied for 10th in the NFL with 46 touchbacks.
"Forty-plus touchbacks, 92 percent, one legitimate miss – yeah, I would say this is the best year I've ever had," Brown said. "I'm performing at the highest level I've ever played. It makes me feel like I can continue to be here and can continue to stay in the mix as long as I continue to work the way that I'm working."
Brown is the only Giants player born in the 1970s. He is the team's oldest and most experienced player. But he shows no evidence of decline. In two seasons with the Giants, Brown has made 47 of 52 field goal attempts (he was 23-for-26 in 2013), a 90.4 percentage. In 2013, he made a Giants-record 17 consecutive field goal attempts. This year, he hit all four of his tries from 50 yards and longer, including a season-long 53-yarder yesterday that was one of his four field goals in the season finale vs. Philadelphia. Brown tied his career high by kicking five field goals in a victory at Tennessee on Dec. 7.
"I think everybody agrees that yesterday's (unusually mild) December weather wasn't December, so let's be real about it," Brown said. "December of this year versus December last year – sideways rain with the wind blowing (as it was for the 2013 season-ending victory over Washington) - coach (Tom Coughlin) gives me a 50-yarder and the wind blows it out to the left, so the days are different. But just to have Coach Coughlin's confidence; that's four (50-yarders) he allowed me to kick this year versus the two last year and we were successful on all four this year. Hopefully, we can continue to work and continue to have that type of relationship where he trusts to put me in that position and to come through."
Ironically, in training camp Brown was uncertain if he would even be here this season. The Giants brought in first-year kicker Brandon McManus to compete with him. McManus, who now plays for the Denver Broncos, has plenty of talent, and Brown thought the Giants might go with the younger kicker with the lower salary.
"I was talking to (special teams coordinator) Tom Quinn about that, and we were alluding to there was never a time in training camp where it was just 'I have the job,'" Brown said. "You couldn't relax and every day was a challenge and given Brandon McManus' performance… When they made the decision to keep me, I remember being relieved and shocked at the same time, because Brandon was such a viable competitor. He was good. He was legit, he was real and he had a phenomenal camp. Now you look at where we are at the end of the season and what we've done individually, and I hope that they feel that they continue to make the right investment in me. I'm trying to play as long as I can."
Brown believes he is a far better kicker now than he was when we entered the NFL as the Seahawks' seventh-round draft choice in 2003. And while most players find the game to be more physically challenging as they age, Brown has a different opinion.
"It's actually gotten easier," he said. "I don't poison myself as much as I did when I was a kid in my twenties, doing things that we do in our twenties. I've survived that and have gotten through that. For me, there's been drastic benefit in eliminating some of the off the field activity.
"I probably enjoy it more now because I understand what I'm doing more than I did then. I understand just how rare this opportunity is and how fortunate I am and I want to take advantage of it and be the best at it."
The only kick Brown would like to have back from his season was his lone non-blocked miss, a 43-yard try in Jacksonville. Although he doesn't agonize over misses as he did when he was younger, the kick stings because the Giants lost the game by a single point, 25-24.
"The simple fact is I was just slow getting through the ball and the thing went over the upright, more to the outside than the inside," Brown said. "Reasonably, I missed that kick by six inches. That can be daunting to some people, but I think mentally maturing and mentally understanding how to do my craft and how to perform with finding my rhythm and the feelings of being out on the field and understanding what it is to kick a solid ball; it kind of makes me squeamish because you look at Adam Vinatieri, who missed his one kick of the season yesterday and he would have been the second guy ever in history (to make all his attempts; Vinatieri was wide left on a 46-yard attempt and finished 30-for-31). Who's to say I wouldn't be perfect right now? We don't know.
"It's like making that 30-foot putt. Nobody likes spending $150 to go play golf, but you make a 30-foot putt and you're going to spend 150 bucks the next day to come out there and try to make it again. I'm motivated, I'm encouraged and there are still things that I can do to be better. That's what the offseason is for and I'm looking forward to it."