Monday, October 12, 2009

Top 10 Punters of All-Time

Welcome all to our first attempt here at Rob's Big Ideas. We will be posting mostly in an oh-so-easy top ten format following the random thinking and interest of editor Rob (from Rob's Big Ideas fame). So here we go, we'll start with the much under-appreciated (and often ridiculed) profession in all of sports, the punter. No true punter has ever been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No true punter has ever won any meaningful award in the history of sports. They often play in the NFL for 20+ years, and yet most fans can name more officials in the league than punters. So here's to the poor bastards that still pull down a 6 digit salary and only really work one day a week for 5 months of the year.

10. Russell Erxleben (New Orleans '79-'83, Detroit 1987)
Russell Erxleben played college ball for Texas University and was the only 3 time consensus all american (1976,1977,1978) at the position. A punter and kicker, he owns the longest field goal in NCAA history at 67 yards. This unprecidented collegiate career led to Russell being named to this list, and picked in the first round (11th overall) by the Saints in 1979, two slots before HOFer Kellen Winslow (the good one). He went on to 5 years of mediocrity and ineptitude for the Saints, coming back for a game with Lions 4 years later and a 7 year stint in federal prison for fraud and money laundering, making him the have-to-pick for the punter/kicker in any "The Longest Yard" list.

9. Bob Cameron (Winnepeg Blue Bombers (CFL) 1980-2002)
If longevity means greatness, and Canada means America's hat, then Bob Cameron was a guy with a job and universal health care. He won the Hec Crighton Trophy in college, an award given to the most outstanding college football player IN CANADA. If you were not aware they had colleges in Canada, let alone that they had college football programs in Canada, or an award for the best player in said programs, just have a look at the luminaries that have won this prestigious award. He was a 4 time CFL All-Star, the '88 Manitoba Athlete of the Year(?), a 3 time Grey Cup (Canada's Super Bowl) winner and the '88 Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian (not the MVP of the game, just the most valuable Canadian to play in the game.) He holds the record, all-time, of any league, with a total of 122.8 km (134,301 yards) punting (of course, in Canada the field is 110 yards long and they play 18 games a season.) So why didn't he ever get a look from NFL scouts? He's still just the fastest kid on the special olympic team.

8. Brian Moorman (Buffalo 2001-present)
Playing at Division II powerhouse Pittsburg State University, Moorman was not just an all-american (DII) punter, but was the collegiate national champion in the 400m from '97-'99. After leaving the Gorillas as the most decorated athlete in school history, he spent 2 years being cut by the Seahawks, before being signed by the Buffalo Bills and sent to Berlin to play in NFL Europa. In Berlin he led the league in punting for 2 consecutive seasons, and was brought back to Still-Within-The-United-States-But-Close-Enough-to-Canada-to-be-considered-in-Canada Buffalo and was named to 2 Pro Bowls, and as an alternate to 3 more. He has been considered, even by Bills fans, as the best player, and only "good" one to play in Buffalo for the past decade or so, yet is most known for being set vertical by the late Sean Taylor in the 2006 Pro Bowl.

7. Tommy Tupa (7 teams '88-'05)
As a teenager, Tom won the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick contest, foreshadowing what would lead to an impressive Madden 2000 rating. He was THE starting Quarterback for THE Ohio State before being drafted in the 3rd round of the '88 draft by THE Pheonix Cardinals. He was eventually named the starting the quarterback by 1991, and then cut. He spent a year at backup QB before deciding "hey, punters are people too," and converted to punter. He was signed by the Browns, then cut. Then re-signed as the new punter in Cleveland. His time in Cleveland was not remarkable, other than his proficiency for converting the newly added two-point conversion option. In 1994 he was the first ever NFL player to convert a 2-point attempt. Then did it 2 more times that season. "Two Point" Tupa went on to be an All-Pro in '99 and the most sought after punter in Madden Football history.

6. Jeff Feagles (New England '88-'89, Philadelphia '90-'93, Arizona '94-'97, Seattle '98-'02, N.Y. Giants '03-present)
Jeff Feagles is old.  He started out as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots in 1988.  Twenty-one years, four teams, and 342 (as of this week) games later, and he is still considered one of the better punters in the NFL as a N.Y. Giant.  He is a two time pro bowler, one time Super Bowl winner, and has one National Championship to his credit.  He is the NFL career leader in punts, punts inside the 20, and punting yards.  His 342 (as of this week) games are an NFL record for consecutive games played.  That's over 20 years of not missing a day of work - impressive, except he's just a punter.  It's not like he's a fast food employee or something.  Let's see the guy at the McDonald's drive-thru not miss a day for 20 years.  Now that would be impressive.

5.  Sean Landeta (Philadelphia Stars (USFL) '83-'84, N.Y. Giants '85-'93, St. Louis Rams '93-'96, Tampa Bay '97, Green Bay '98, Philadelphia '99-'02, St. Louis Rams '03-'04, Philadelphia '05, N.Y. Giants '06)
Sean started life out as a star in the USFL, being named to the All-USFL team during both USFL seasons, along with the all-time USFL team (that sounds like a joke, but that list included Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Gary Zimmerman and Reggie White).  He was the last active former USFL player in the NFL.  He was a 3 time NFL All Pro, 2 time Super Bowl winner, and was named to both the All-80's and All-90's teams by the NFL.  He even made a guest appearance on Sesame Street one time.  However, the most impressive of all of these feats is that he was the last active player in the NFL to appear in the original Tecmo Bowl.

4. Jerrel Wilson (Kansas City '63-'77, N.E. '78)
One of the most underrated punters/players in history, Jerrel "Thunderfoot" Wilson came out of Southern Miss to join the Chiefs after the '63 draft. Listed as a 3rd string running back, he was one of the few players at the time whose roster spot was reserved as a special-teamer. He seemingly revolutionized the position (as did fellow teamate Jan Stenerud) as teams around the league started seeing the potential advantage of "specialists". He became a 3 time AFL All Star and a 3 time NFL Pro Bowler. Named to the all-time AFL team, "The Duck" as he was sometimes known, led the league in punting 4 times, only one other guy has ever done that.

3. Shane Lechler (Oakland 2000-present)
This guy is a weapon.  A special teams weapon that cannot score points, but a weapon none the less.  His 47 yd punting average is an all-time record, and he's currently sporting a 52.4 average on the 2009 season.  These numbers come at a price, as his $12 million for 4 year salary shattered the price tag of NFL punters.  He is probably the Raiders true defensive MVP these past few seasons considering the Raiders have given up 382 yards per game this season.  Simply put, he puts the ball at the opponents end of the field, then he walks off the field and the opponents walk it 80+ yards for a score. Repeat.  That's a Raiders game.

2. Sammy Baugh (Washington '37-'52)
Grandpa here is widely regarded as the one of the best football players (and athletes) of all time.  In college he was a 2 time All-American at TCU.  Followed by a stint as a short stop in the St. Louis Cardinals orginization. In 1937 he moved to Washington, DC to play for the newly moved Washington Redskins.  Slingin' Sammy was an All Pro Quarterback, Defensive Back and Punter, at the same time. Multiple times.  He was on the field the entire game, offense, defense and special teams.  Despite this, the guy carried a 45.1 yards per punt for his career, that wasn't broken until recently by Shane Lechler.  He was a Hall of Fame Quarterback, who in his spare time was the greatest punter in history, until draft day 1973...

1. Ray Guy (Oakland/L.A. Raiders '73-'86)
Ray Guy was taken in the first round of the 1973 draft.  The only pure punter to be taken so high.  A 6 time All Pro, he was named to the all 70's team, the NFL 75th Anniversary team, both the Mississippi and Georgia Sports Hall of Fames and has a collegiate award named after him.  He was known for his high, booming kicks, that once hit the ceiling of the Superdome.  Ray won 3 Superbowls with the Raiders, once kicked 619 punts in a row without having one blocked, and never had a punt returned for  a touchdown.  Before he came along, the NFL didn't track hang time, keep punts inside the 20 as a stat, or consider punters as football players.  He is often brought up as one of the top players not in the hall of fame, and is considered for induction every year.  I ask you, Mr. Hall of Fame Voter, when will this prejudice end. Punters wear helmets and facemasks and pads just like real football players.  Equality for all man, equality for all.

1 comment:

  1. You forget Yale Larry. Look him up.