Sunday, August 3, 2014

Just for Kicks

Kicking is very important in football. In fact, some of the more enthusiastic players even kick the ball, occasionally. ~ Alfred Hitchcock

Ray Guy, the great punter from the Oakland Raiders, finally made it into the NFL Hall of Fame. It's amazing how long it took for voters to recognize arguably the best punter ever. Guy kicked them long, and he kicked them high, so returners didn't have a lot of luck against him. He also knew how to kick to the “coffin corner”, giving teams the ball inside their own 5-yard line. This last is almost a lost art.
So it's perfectly fitting that he be elected. What is a bit galling though is that everyone, including Guy, are proclaiming him as the “first punter” to make the hall. I suppose they could mean he's the first full-time, didn't-play-another-position punter. Perhaps, but no one is actually saying that. Guy himself said that the “team is complete” now because they have a punter in the hall.
I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but there was already a pretty damn good punter in the HOF. Here are a few stats: 11 years in the league (not counting two seasons missed for military duty); a career average of 44.3 yards per punt; twice averaged over 48 yards per punt in a season (more than 50 punts). Not bad for a part-time punter who was normally a defensive back. As a DB, he had 50 interceptions and returned 133 punts himself for an average of 6 yards per return. So who was this mystery man? None other than Yale Lary, of the Detroit Lions.
Yeah, you say, but that was then. Well, “then” was from 1952 through 1964 (excluding '54 and '55 spent in the military), which ain't prehistoric times just yet. By then, the specialists were starting to appear, yet the likes of Lary could still outperform them.
The intent here is not to put down Ray Guy. He was arguably the best of all time at booting the ball a long way. But, let's not put down a guy who, had he had as many games as Guy and not played another position, might well have set records that Guy wouldn't have broken. Also let's quit ignoring other guys in the HOF who could did the dirty work of punting when they weren't doing their regular jobs, like Bob Waterfield and Sammy Baugh.
So, Ray, you may well be the best punter in the HOF, but you ain't the only one.

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