Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Top 10 NFL Kickers: First 25 Years (1920-1944)

By Chris Willis, NFL Films

Here is a list of the top 10 kickers that played in the first twenty-five years of the NFL (1920-1944). Since the NFL didn’t start until 1920 this list won’t include some pre-NFL stalwarts like Jim Thorpe, Charlie Brickley, Frank Nesser, etc., who had their prime years of kicking before 1920.

The list ranks the kickers for production, consistency, post-season performance post-1933) and accuracy. Although scoring was taken into consideration, touchdowns are included in that stat, it wasn’t the most important criteria.

1) Jack Manders (1933-1940 Chicago Bears). Manders, who was nicknamed “Automatic,” kicked eight consistent years with the Chicago Bears. Manders twice led the NFL in scoring (1934, 1937); led the NFL in FGs made 4 times (1933-1934, 1936-1937); and XPs made 3 times (1933-1935). He kicked over (80 percent) of his extra points.
Manders kicked 23 of his 40 career field goals in the first half of games when the outcome was more in doubt.

Plus, Manders was 7 for 7 on extra points and 5 of 10 on field goals in his 4 career post-season games with the Bears. In the 1933 NFL Championship Game (first one ever in NFL history) Manders converted both extra points and made 3 of 4 field goals- from 16, 40, and 28 yards to account for 11 points in the Bears 23-21 victory over the New York Giants.
Jack Manders, Chicago Bears
2) Dutch Clark (1931-1932 Portsmouth Spartans, 1934-1938 Detroit Lions) Dutch led the NFL in scoring three times, field goals once (1932) and extra points three times (1932, 1935-1936). In 1932 the NFL saw only six field goals made- and Dutch Clark made half of them (3). He was probably the NFL’s best-ever drop kicker.
Dutch Clark, Detroit Lions
3) Ward Cuff (1937-1945 New York Giants, 1946 Chicago Cardinals, 1947 Green Bay packers). Cuff was nearly perfect on extra points during his 11-year NFL career. After not kicking one in 1937 Cuff went on to convert 156 of 162 point after kicks- that’s 96 percent!! He also wasn’t’ too shabby on field goals making 43 of 98 tries.

Cuff led the NFL in field goals four times (1938-1939, 1943 and 1947- although the one in 1947 is after the cutoff). He also made 10 field goals of 35 yards or more.
In three playoff games Cuff was 2 for 3 on extra points and 2 of 3 on his field goals tries (14 and 16 yards).
Ward Cuff, New York Giants
4) Paddy Driscoll (Chicago Cardinals 1920-1925, Chicago Bears 1926-1929). The Hall of Famer was consistently known as the best kicker in the NFL- before Dutch Clark came along- during his ten-year career in NFL (and even pre-NFL years). Driscoll led the NFL in scoring twice (1923 and 1926) and in field goals four times (1922, 1923, 1925 and 1926). In 1925-1926 Driscoll converted 23 field goals and 24 extra points. His best year of 1926 he led the NFL in scoring with 86 points- with 12 FGs and 14 XPs- that would be 50 points accounted for by kicking.
Paddy Driscoll, Chicago Cardinals
5) Armand Niccolai (1934-1942 Pittsburgh Pirates-Steelers) Niccolai, at six-feet-two and 226 pounds, also played on the line as a tackle-guard-end. But he was one of the best kickers in the NFL during his nine years with Pittsburgh.
Twice he led the NFL in field goals made- 1935-1936. He converted 34 field goals, while making 71 extra points in his career. Niccolai converted 8 field goals of 40 or more yards, including a 50-yarder against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934. From 1938-to-1942 he converted 48 of 49 extra points- nearly perfect. His 7 field goals kicked for Pittsburgh in 1936 lasted 14 years until 1950 when Joe Geri kicked 8.

Armand Niccolai, Pittsburgh

6) Joey Sternaman (1922-25, 1927-1930 Chicago Bears; 1926 Chicago Bulls (AFL), 1923 Duluth) “Little” Joey Sternaman, brother of Bears co-owner Dutch Sternaman, packed a big toe on his five-feet-six, 150-pound body for nearly of decade of pro football action. Little Joey led the NFL in field goals in 1924 with 9. He also led the rival AFL (1926) in field goals made with 9 too.

In 1925 when the Bears went on the famous Red Grange barnstorming tour Joey converted 17 extra points that season.
Joey Sternaman, Chicago Bears
7) Ken Strong (1929-1932 Staten Island Stapletons, 1933-1935, 1939, 1944-1947 New York Giants, 1936-1937 New York Yanks (AFL). Strong led the NFL in Field goals made twice (1931 and 1944)- including in 1944 when he was 38 years old.

Strong converted 38 career field goals and 166 extra points. In five post-season games he was perfect on all 9 extra points and was one of two on field goals.
Ken Strong, New York Giants
8) Ralph Kercheval (1934-1940 Brooklyn Dodgers). Kercheval didn’t kick as often as the previous names but was just as good. From 1938 to 1940 Kerchaval made 15 of 37 field goals; and 13 of 15 extra points. In 1936 he booted a 50-yard FG.

In 1938 Kercheval led the NFL in field goals made with 5.

The following year (1939) he led the NFL in FG accuracy, making 6 of 13 (46 percent). He might be higher on the list if he was a little more accurate but the Dodgers simply didn’t score as much as the other teams in the NFL.
In his first four seasons in Brooklyn, the Dodgers averaged just 7 points a game- compared to the Chicago Bears who scored around 18 points per game.
Ralph Kercheval, Brooklyn Dodgers
9) Glenn Presnell (1931-1933 Portsmouth Spartans; 1934-1936 Detroit Lions) Presnell, just like Kercheval, didn’t have as many opportunities (mainly because of the presence of teammate Dutch Clark), but was a very consistent place kicker. Presnell led the NFL in scoring in 1933 (although Clark missed the season coaching basketball) and in 1934 he set an NFL record with a 54-yard field goal, a mark that was not broken until 1953 by Bert Richichar.
10) Don Hutson (1935-1945 Green Bay Packers) and Clarke Hinkle (1932-1941 Green Bay Packers).
Don Hutson, Green Bay Packers
Clarke Hinkle, Green Bay Packers
Throughout the mid-1930's through the mid-40's the Packers had a two-headed kicking monster.

Hutson was the extra point specialist. During his 11-year career with the Packers, he made 172 of 183 extra points- 94 percent success rate. Twice he led the NFL in extra points (1941-1942).

In 3 playoff games Hutson was a perfect 4 for 4 in extra points.

Hinkle was the field goal specialist with 28 career FGs in his 10-year career. He led the NFL twice in FGs made- 1940 with 9 and 1941 with 6. Hinkle was also 15 of 31 in extra points- only half- so that’s why Hutson kicked the conversion.

Hutson made just 7 of 17 career field goals. The two future Hall of Famers worked perfectly together to be number ten on the list.

Best of the Rest
Red Dunn; Benny Friedman; Hank Gillo; Pete “Fats” Henry; Jack McBride; Ernie Nevers; and Bob Snyder.

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