Saturday, April 13, 2019

The NFL's Greatest Kickers of All-Time (Post WW II)

By John Turney

How many years does a player need to log in before he can be included in an all-time list? Five? Seven? Nine? More?

We don't know. We know that lists are kind of dubious in nature but we also know they get lots of clicks and there is some interest in the topics. So, we do them, try and do our due diligence by presenting information that is not easily found elsewhere and let the chips fall where they may.

We think five is enough to be on a list, but to be at the top of any list some more 'sustained greatness' as TJ Troup calls it we think it takes a little more. We are going with seven and that will include perhaps a surprise at the top of the list.  In a position with players who were effective after they played 19, 20 or more seasons we have someone with just seven seasons.

We certainly appreciate Pro Football Reference in taking on this task. While much of the things we compiled by 'hand' when it came to sorting the long kicks their search engines were invaluable and saved tons of time.

Note: We covered the pre-WWII kickers in a post by Chris Willis HERE. There you will find names like Ken Strong and Dutch Clark and others. Strong was an excellent back in the NFL, then retired and then came back to kick and did so very well during the war years and even a couple of years beyond. He could warrant a mention for that, but really, his greatness was pre-WWII.

Another note: The margins for some of the players lower are on the list, but we see it as six elite kickers (1-6), some excellent ones with some historically significant players in the next group, maybe 7 through 20 or so.  From 21 to the end players could move up and down 10 slots and not change things much or in other words, perhaps number 35 on this list could be 22 and vice versa.

We are aware some of these guys didn't come through in a specific situation and will draw the ire of the fans of the team they kicked for, but this is a career evaluation and allows for imperfections.

1. Justin Tucker
Yes, we have Tucker at the top. It's more than the fact that he's the most accurate kicker in history, which he is at 90.1 percent. (He's also missed just one PAT) but that is a major part of it. It's that he's 2.4 percent better than the next player on the list. He's been a First-team All-Pro three times and been voted to two Pro Bowls.

As far as we know there have been three entities that have looked at grading fed goal percentage in relation to era. One is Chase Stuart of Pro Football Perspective, another is Rupert Patrick of the Pro Football Researchers Association (who is currently writing a book on the subject) and NFLGSIS, the statistical arm of the NFL and has a stat called "field goals plus and minus) but it goes back only to 2000. Stuart and Patrick go back at least sixty years or more.

Essentially all three entities try to grade kickers on how many field goals a kicker is above the expected average, but all three approach it a bit differently. We don't know who has the best metric but we see that they are fairly highly correlated so we use them all and almost interchangeably.

So, with that awkward introduction, we can say that Tucker, even in the most accurate field goal-kicking era in history, is further ahead of his peers than the other greats on this list.

At the time Stuart and Patrick did their work Tucker was at or near the top but also had only played a handful of years, so we watched and now feel comfortable enough with our approach of looking at those three metrics, along with our own and also looking at other aspects of kicking to proclaim that Tucker takes the top spot in terms of accuracy and relative accuracy.

However that is not all, Tucker isn't doing it indoors and also is doing his fork from a distance. His accuracy rate from 45-64 yards is 80.0 percent, the best of all-time. He has a good leg on kickoffs put also seems to place them well so that coverage can get there, the returns against him in his career are 22.2, well above average and has yet to have a kickoff returned for a touchdown on him.

He's also a clutch kicker, with a high percentage of made kicks when the game is on the line. When trailing by three or less and with 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter and overtime Tucker's percentage i  93.8% (one miss)—hard to do better than that.

The only negative we can find is in onside kicks. He's zero for eleven. Well, no one is perfect.

Now, always keep in mind that lists can change. If Tucker's next handful of years are not up to snuff, down he goes. Could he follow in, say, Mike Vanderjagt's shoes and simply lose it to the point of unemployment? It's possible. But there is no way to know that and we can only go by what he's done and that is pretty remarkable to date.

But in this snapshot, picking anyone else would be a cop-out and would ignore the numbers which take into consideration era. Tucker is slightly better in his era than others on this list were better than kickers in their era.

2. Nick Lowery
In Stuart's and Patrick's work, Lowery came up to number one for both. And prior to Tucker finishing his seventh season, we had Lowery tops as well. He was the most accurate kicker of the 1980s and the 1990s and in the mythical 'Mid-decade' of 1985-95.

He played in Arrowhead Stadium which was turf most of his time there, but converted to grass later, but it has a huge crown, for drainage of Midwest thunderstorms. It's not a huge deal, but it wasn't the flat-surfaced dome that Morten Andersen was kicking in the vast majority of his career. After he left the Chiefs to play for the Jets he had to contend with the Meadowlands, perhaps the worst-kicking stadium in the NFL.

Lowery's kickoffs were solid, but not spectacular. He didn't have as powerful a leg as Anderson but he was good on long-distance kicks for his era.

Lowery was a four-time First-team All-Pro and voted to two Pro Bowls but the way we look at kickers (a 'complete approach'), we think he was one of the top two kickers in the NFL eight times more than we'd have bestowed that honor on anyone.

3. Jan Stenerud
When one looks are Stenerud's pure numbers and compares them to modern kickers they don't look great, but when taken in context, compared to his era they were excellent.

He had a strong leg, kicked deep on kickoffs and was accurate. And after a few years in the doldrums in the late-1970s, he rebounded over the final five years in his career to be one of the best kickers in the NFL for that span.

He was a six-time All-Pro and went to six Pro Bowls and preceded Andersen as the first pure kicker to make the Hall of Fame. He was a key player in Super Bowl IV, connecting on long kicks and helping the Chiefs get the title.

4. Morten Andersen
Andersen had the cannon leg and was accurate for his era, just not to the degree as some others. He did have the advantage of being in a dome for at least eight games a year for most of his career. He was also the best kickoff guy, in our view, in history. He had fewer kicks return on him than anyone, relative to era.

He was a five-time All-Pro and went to seven Pro Bowls and was the second pure kicker to be voted to the Hall of Fame. He was a First-team All-Decade pick for the 1980s and the 1990s.

He was certainly better than the average kicker in terms of accuracy but not to the degree that Tucker is and Lowery was. So, we look at that and then give him credit for longevity and also kickoffs he's third in our book.

5. Lou Groza
Groza was a starting offensive linemen for the first part of his career with the dynasty Browns and his kicking gave them a distinct advantage over most teams. He had a strong leg and was more accurate than most kickers of his era. He scores well in Stuart's and Patrick's metrics and also kicked well when he was a pure kicker from 1961-67 when he came back to the NFL after a one-year retirement.

6. Adam Vinatieri
We know, we know, we have Vinatieri too low. But according to Stuart and Patrick, we have him too high since his relative accuracy is not much above average. Without context he looks great, but when compared to other kickers of his era, not quite as much.

However, we are not all about pure numbers. The eye test moves Vinatieri up and that eye test is composed of the "Tuck rule" game kick which Bill Belichick called the best kick he ever saw and that Bill Parcells called the greatest football play he ever saw along with his game-winners in playoffs and Super Bowls. Belichick also called his former kicker the best-ever kicker. We don't agree with that, but he is in the top six.

Additionally, he is a three-time All-Pro, has four rings and was First-team All-Decade for the 2000s.

He was certainly clutch in many big games, but when Tucker is at 93.8% in the last two min/OT when trailing by three or less and Vinatieri is 81.1% (30 for 37) his clutch 'rating', if you will, is excellent but not superhuman.

Vinatieri's kickoffs were just okay but has not kicked off for years and the other things were just okay. He gets a bonus for conditions when he was with the Patriots and loses it when he went to the Colts and kicked in the dome. He also gets the "real football player" bonus in that Belichick spoke of how he fit in with the team because he'd work out with them, rather than with a special kicker program and he'd make a tackle if a returner broke free. 

Again, this is one that must be looked at relative to the era he played. Bakken was the most accurate kicker of the 1960s (125 or more attempts). He was All-Decade in the 1960s and was Second-team All-Decade for the 1970s and was clutch. He was All-Pro twice and was either All-Conference or a Pro Bowler in five seasons. 

However, he had little distance and his kickoffs started well but tailed off as he got older but was known as a clutch kicker, hitting game-winning kicks for the Cardiac Cards of the mid-1970s.

Garo's career began slowly but when he got to the Dolphins in 1970 it took off. He was the First-team kicker on the 1970s All-Decade team and was the most accurate kicker of the decade. He was All-Pro twice and helped his team to two rings if you count 1972 when he about ruined the "Perfect Season"

He could have good range at times—in 1972 he was 3 for 8 on kicks longer than 50 yards which doesn't look that great through the lenses of the 2000s era but for the time it was excellent.

Toni's career was short but he got a late start, he was already 26 when he took over the Cowboys kicking duties in 1971. He was Second-team All-NFC in 1975 and was All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 1979. He was the second most accurate kicker of the 1970s and through 1980 he was the NFL's most accurate kicker ever (200 or more attempts) but seemingly age got to him and he ended up going to the Saints and then the USFL. In his prime though he was top-notch, accurate, and clutch.

Another one we will hear about, but again, using the aforementioned metrics Gotkowski was not quite as high as most of the kickers ahead of him. He does get extra credit for poorer conditions than some, is way ahead of average on kickoffs, is also reasonably successful on the few onside kicks he's tried and is second all-time in the 45-64 accuracy rate (behind only Tucker).

His deep kicking (50 or more yards is fifth all-time at .714) was great but his very deep kicking (54 or more yards) is okay, but nothing to write home about. His clutch kicking was good, but not among the elite in that category. One negative is he's missing too many PATs after the recent distance change.

He has been First-team All-Pro twice and Second-team once and was voted to four Pro Bowls. 
However, he's still active and he needs to sustain his current level to remain a top-10 kicker. 

Sometimes Wilkins would miss a few he should make, he was 68.0% from 45 yards to 64 yards but he would also make lots he didn't seem quite as likely to make (he was .722 from 50 yards and out, good for fourth all-time). 

He also was excellent on kickoffs, ahead of guys like Justin Tucker and Rob Bironas but not quite to the level of a Graham Gano or a Greg Zuerlein. What he was one of the best all-time at was onside kicks. He had a success rate of 45.0%, good for second best ever for players with more than ten attempts.

He was a career 5 for 5 in overtime, attesting to his 'clutch' skills. So, "Money", as Wilkins was called, was usually on the money but he would be higher on our list if he had been a little better from 45-49 and didn't have the advantage of being in a dome more than half the time.

He did it all in our view—pretty good in onside situations, pretty good in kickoffs, sixth all-time (70.6 %) in 50+ kicks, fifth in 45-64-yard (.732) accuracy and decent (50.0) in the 54+ category and always had the reputation as a "clutch kicker" with a career accuracy mark in late, close games very similar to Adam Vinatieri.

He was a troubled guy whose life ended tragically and bizarrely in 2014 after he'd been let go by the Titans. We're confident his career would have continued, but no matter how things ended, he was one of the best all-around kickers and didn't benefit from kicking in a dome for his home games.

In addition to his kicking accuracy, Hanson had a good leg on kickoffs but was a bit subpar on onsides going just 6 for 34, but these are secondary factors. He was also a bit subpar in late, clutch kicks at 70.0% when the league average since 1994 is 75.5%. We chose to define 'late, clutch kicks' as those with 2 minutes or less remaining in the 4th quarter or in overtime when trailing by three points or less.

The primary thing is Hanson was "above the curve" in terms of accuracy. He does get downgraded for being in a dome and his distance was not super. From 45-64 yards he was a 64.6% kicker, okay but not great and from 54 yards and further, he was only 8 for 24 for 33.3%. 

Anderson was accurate and had poorer conditions than most during his Steeler days, then had some years in a dome. He didn't have a super-strong leg (30 % on kicks of 50 or more), which is why he is lower than most expect here. We don't hold the one miss in the 1998 NFCCG against him at all. It was one miss. His playoff kicking was solid and had a good record in clutch situations.

He was Second-team All-Decade in the 1980s and 1990s, was All-Pro twice and a Second-team All-Pro once and went to four Pro Bowls

15. Matt Prater
Kicked in Denver and then in Detroit, at altitude and then a dome so he's had some advantages. Still, has an excellent leg and from 45-64 he hits at a 71.4% rate, and from 50+ he is second all-time (75.4) and from 55 and beyond he's at 60.7% which is seven best among those with nine or more attempts.

He's 19 for 19 on kicks in the last 2 minutes or OT when trailing by three or less, that's the best ever among those with enough kicks to qualify.

Oh, and he holds the record for the longest field goal made ever at 64 yards.

A long career guy, kickoffs were middle-of-the-pack and his long kicking (50 or more yards) is 24th all-time, call it on the top 1/3 or so. Great clutch numbers and is a member of the 2,000-point club.

Lots of advantages in the dome and he had one of the poorest kickoff legs ever. It's odd because he did have a pretty high kicking percentage on long kicks. Dome effect, we suppose.

Still, he had seasons where he missed just one or two kicks. Super reliable, not spectacular. 

Bailey's stock has dropped in recent years. He was rivaling Justin Tucker in some areas but struggled and was cut. He's looking to rebound in Minnesota. We will see. Will he be like Mike Vanderjagt, going from the most accurate ever to not being able to find a job?

His best asset is long-distance accuracy, but his overall accuracy was great, but, as we mentioned, has leveled off in the last two seasons.

However, like Tucker, we think Bailey is the real deal and will rebound well and regain the form that made him one of the top two kickers of the 2000s. If he falters more, down he goes on this list.

Blanda gets marks for longevity and pre-1970 or so he did have a good leg. After that, he was an up-close guy. His clutch kicking in 1970 earned him (along with his clutch quarterbacking) the AFC Player of the Year award, so that counts as a plus. 

Mosely was the AP NFL MVP in 1982 and the last straight-on kicker in the NFL. He was used quite a lot on long kicks but didn't make a lot of them, still, it showed his coaches had confidence in him and that counts for something.

In kicking metrics Baker does well. In fact, about as productive (in terms of the era) as Groza was, if not a hair better. Baker is also a top 10 punter of all-time but we will get to that in later posts.

Gould is the most accurate kicker from 50 or more yards ever (.784) and is six for nine (excellent) in 54+ yard attempts. And in what we consider a key range—45-64 he is fourth all-time (.735)

Kickoffs were average to slightly below average and onside success was poor (1 for 19). His late, clutch kick percentage is a bit below the league average, so that has to be scored as a negative. He was All-Pro in 2006 and was Second-team All-Pro in 2017 by Pro Football Focus

He seems to us to be getting better at his trade. We may be shorting him some, with a lot of earlier-generation kickers occupying many of the previous dozen slots, but the bell curve really gets tall after the first handful of kickers so there isn't a ton of difference between say, #12 and #22.

23. Matt Bryant
Bryant is third all-time in 45-64 accuracy (just ahead of Gould at 74.4%) and was 9/16 from 54 and out for a 56.3 mark, good, but not near the top.  However, his late, clutch kicking is one of the best ever at 91.7%, a big plus.

Not a deep kicker on kickoffs and okay on onsides but has surprisingly few attempts (six) for such a long career.

24. Matt Stover
Stover was solid, in the same range, in terms of relative accuracy, as Vinatieri and Gostkowski, meaning okay but not stellar. His onside success was good but kickoffs were not great. But his clutch kicking rates were so-so and he was the kicker on two Super Bowl winners and scored 2004 points.

25. Sebastian Janikowski
One of the best-ever legs in the NFL, he was a weapon who was allowed to try kicks few others (maybe one—Zuerlein) would be allowed to attempt. He tried 105 kicks from 50 yards or more, making 58 (for a 55.2% average) which is okay but not near the top but his 105 attempts is more than anyone, ever. His 45-64 percentage was 62.8% which is middle of the pack and he was 50.0 (24/46) in kicks of 54 yards or more, that is 18 more kicks attempted of 54+ yards than the next guy on the list.

His late, clutch kicking, though was below the average some, not a lot, but we cannot give him the label a 'clutch kicker'.

So, he was a weapon. So, he misfired more than some others, he still gave them maybe 3-5 yards on any given drive that passed the 50 that other teams didn't have. He didn't have many chances (just 2 for 33 in onside attempts)

26. John Kasay
Very similar to Matt Stover in terms of stats, and metrics, so let's call him the left-footed version of Stover. His clutch kicking, though, was poor.

27. Josh Brown
Strong leg, good depth on kickoffs, fair on onside attempts. He was decent in 45-64 range (68.6%) but from 50 and out he was 67.5% but even a hair higher from 54 and higher (69.2%) which is a bit counter to what would be expected. That 69.2% is the best-ever among those with nine or more attempts. His clutch kicking was 82.4%, a very good mark.

28. Don Cockroft
One of the more accurate straight-on kickers of his era, scores well in the Stuart and Patrick metrics for being better than his peers. Had some good years as a punter, but a couple poor ones as well.

29. Fred Cox
Similar to Cockroft though he had less range.

30. Norm Johnson
Kicked indoors a lot, not a strong leg but above the curve in terms of accuracy. He was All-Pro in 1984 and 1993 and was All-Conference both those years and a Second-team All-Conference pick in 1995 when he was in Pittsburgh and kicking outdoors for the most part.

31. David Akers
His kickoffs were in the upper tier as were his onside kicks. He's been All-Pro five times and a six-time Pro Bowler which makes him among the most 'honored' kickers ever.

The issue is from 45-64 he's only at 58.2% and from 50 and beyond he was in the middle at 54.0% and from 54 and beyond he's at 38.5%. So he lacked the distance of the elite legs. His 64.7% percentage on late, clutch kicks was also a bit wanting.

That along with his overall percentage make him, adjusting for era, about average. 

32. Phil Dawson
Dawson, like Akers, in the "metrics" is slightly above average in terms of overall kicking percentage. However, he is better than Akers in the key 45-64 range (69.0%) than some of the players ahead and his 70.0% over 50+ is also excellent as is his 62.5 from 54 and beyond.

Kickoffs are well below average and late, clutch kicking was also below average.

33. Pete Stoyanovich

A three-time All-Pro, with good overall, good range, good accuracy, hit some clutch kicks, but not one of the very top kickers of his era, but ahead of the pack enough to make the list despite a relatively short career for a kicker. It would have been interesting to see what he might have done over 20 years.

34. Jason Elam
Elam has good 'clutch' numbers and good enough stats, though he benefitted from playing half his games at altitude. His deep kicking numbers are not what you'd expect from someone who booted a 63-yarder.

35. Errol Mann
Much like Fred Cox, except better leg.

36. Jim Turner
Like Fred Cox in a lot of ways. And like Jim Bakken was a college quarterback and had a very strong arm. But was a good, but not great, kicker. Maybe most famous for catching a touchdown pass on a fake field goal in the 1977 Super Bowl season of the Broncos.

37. Steven Hauschka

Excellent from 45-64, excellent in kickoffs, not lucky on onsides attempts, second best in 54+ kicks (nine or more attempts), 67.5% accurate from 50 yards and out (12th best ever). Misses an awful lot of PATs.

38. Pete Gogolak
An honorary pick as a pioneer. Was the AFL's best kicker in 1964-65 and when he went to the Giants he was good, but not great.

Another honorary pick. He overcame his disability and was an icon for a decade. He was 12 for 39 in kicks over 50 yards and that made him and Jan Stenerud the "distance kings" of the pre-1980 era. In the beginning of his career, he kicked a lot of touchbacks, but after kickoffs were moved from the 40 to the 35 in 1974 his touchback numbers tailed off a lot. 

He could be accurate (led the NFL in kicking percentage in 1971) and in 1975 he hit 80.8 percent, but he missed a lot of short kicks and PATs (career PAT percentage is 89.2%, stunningly low)

40. Ben Agajanian
A third honorary pick, though he was very effective in the first part of his pro career. The classic vagabond kicker playing for nine teams in his 13 professional seasons. He was mostly known as a Giant playing five seasons for them. He led the NFL in kicking percentage in 1949 (61.5%) and the AAFC in the same category in 1947 (62.5) and in 1955 he hit on 66.7% of his field goals. He was below 50% for the rest of his career.

He was among the very first kicking specialists, up until that time almost all kickers played another position. Really he, and perhaps Ken Strong's comeback years were the first effective specialists.

Agajanian was a 'player' but was limited due to a freak injury. While at the University of New Mexico he injured his right foot in a freight elevator accident, losing the toes on his foot. He had a boot with square toes fitted to his foot and continued his collegiate career then went into the service, then some semi-pro leagues and eventually to the AAFC and NFL.

41. Gene Mingo
Mingo is the only African-American player on this list. There have been very few black players to kick in the NFL. We don't know why. There have been some who have been kickoff specialists like Willie Wood and Larry Canada, and Donald Igwebuike and Obed Ariri, a pair of Nigerian kickers and a couple others. But it seems odd. Clearly, there was racism in terms of quarterbacks back in the day (and some issues still exist) but why younger black kids have not been encouraged to kick (and punt) in younger leagues, high school, college, etc. is a question I'd like to see answered.

Regardless, Mingo (a running back by trade) was the second-most accurate kicker in the AFL for the first five years of its existence and led the league in kicking percentage twice (1960 at 64.3% and 1964 at 66.7%) in that span and had a year (1962) where he was even better at 69.2%. He was even 5 for 17 in 50+ kicks, making him the best long-range kicker in pro football in that era.

However, the rest of his career was far below average, hitting on less than 40% of his field goals and never hitting another 50-yarder. If you were to grade him he'd get an "A" for the first half of his career and a "D-" for the last half

Still, for those five years and the 'pioneer' aspect of his career, he deserves mention.

42. Neil Rackers

Strong leg, and edges Jeff Wilkins for the most successful onside kicker (since 1991) ever. He could make some long ones but he was not as consistent as you'd like.

43. Greg Zuerlein
Kicks everything as hard as he can and has missed some he should make, but he is on the short list of best-ever legs along with Dempsey, Janikowski, and Morten Andersen. We think he has best chance of any current kickers to kick a 66- or 67-yard field goal someday. 

He was All-Pro in 2017 and has the skills to be as good as any but he's not put together consecutive years to elevate him higher on this list.  He hit a 57-yard field goal in overtime in the 2018 NFCCG that propelled the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.

Zuerlein has time, but we wonder if he can be like Morten Andersen (we think his skill set is similar) or if he'll be more like Neil Rackers. Time will tell.

44. Bruce Gossett
Gossett was an All-Pro in 1973, twice led the NFL in kicking percentage (1964, 1973) and hit a 54-yarder in 1973. 

45. Jay Feely
Pretty solid, good kickoffs and onsides and pretty good from 45-64 yards, but drops off in the 50+ range to a middle-of-the-pack guy. His late, clutch kicking was in the Kasey/Akers range—below average.

46. Mike Vanderjagt
His stats are still wonderful but he is an ideal example of how stats can sometimes lie and why the 'eye test' is important. While being one of the most accurate kickers ever, even adjusting for era could find a job after nine years due to some major playoff failures.

So, as far as his "numbers" his clutch performances drop him a couple dozen slots. He needed to do better.

47. Ryan Longwell
Longwell was very clutch, okay on 50+ kicks, average on kickoffs, a bit better than that on onsides but the kicking percentage compared to his peers is not much, if any, above average.

Best of the rest. Again, these could be higher, the guys in their 40s maybe could be lower. All we can say is we tried to look at everyone. Sometimes there is just little to say about them, other than they were pretty good.

48. Nate Kaeding
Kaeding had a good, but a short career. He was All-Pro once, and Second-team All-Pro twice. Boasts a 86.2% overall kicking percentage.

Some of the rest who are notable:
Ryan Succop—Is not tons above average, but is clutch and good leg.
Don Chandler—A fine kicker and punter, but not great. His just wasn't ever the best in the league at either.
Harvey Johnson—Played five years, four in AAFC and was far above average in FG accuracy.
George Blair—Like Harvey Johnson, short career, but was amazingly accurate for his era.
Bob Waterfield—Played eight years and was the NFL's best kicker from 1945-52.
Ray Wersching—Had some so-so seasons, but from 1979-83 he was hot, owning the best FG percentage in the NFL. Lacked range, however, only 4 for 24 from 50 plus. Could be clutch, though.
Horst Muhlmann—great leg, excellent on kickoffs and longer attempts, but could be inconsistent.
Rolf Benirschke—a favorite, one of the first kickers to crack the career 70% mark, but also missed a lot of PATs.
Efren Herrera—Very accurate for his era, also was good on fake field goals in Seattle
Al Del Greco
Shayne Graham
John Smith—Started off well, then tailed off last three seasons.
Joe Nedney—was below par in first few years, but his kicking in the 2000s vastly improved and scored well in clutch, kickoffs and onsides categories, but poor in 50+ accuracy.
Steve Christie
Chris Bahr—Most accurate 50+ field goal kicker prior to 1980.
Olindo Mare
Pat Summerall—Below 50% for his career but made some clutch field goals in his career. Was the NFL's best kicker in 1959.
Doak Walker
Mason Crosby—only 8/15 in late, clutch attempts. Good in kickoffs and onsides, below average in 50+ category.
Dan Carpenter
Kevin Butler
Matt Bahr
Jim Breech
Pat Leahy
Pat Harder
Gino Cappelletti
Mike Lansford—made a lot of clutch kicks. A barefoot kicker, lacked range on kicks and kickoffs though and his overall percentage was very good, but not great compared to his era.
Chester Marcol—Started off well, two times All-Pro in three years, then faded away into average or below.
Bobby Walston—Twice led the NFL in kicking percentage and went to a pair of Pro Bowls.
Tony Franklin—was pretty good, we expected more. Powerful leg seemed to drop off early.
Lou Michaels
Bobby Layne
Raul Allegre

There are some others, guys who played a short time, were good, then gone. Two examples of that are Donald Igwebuike and Paul McFadden. We remember McFadden in 1984 and 1985 and thinking he was the next Nick Lowery, then he took a tailspin out of the NFL. Stuart's metric loves Igwebuike but he too was gone quickly.

There are also others who are young and coming up, we'll revisit this in a few years to see if they can sustain their quick starts and also to see if any of these kickers have a career-ending "fade" and have to be dropped down the list. 

So, there it is, perhaps imperfect, perhaps incomplete, perhaps too long. Address all complaints to the author. 


  1. Agree with Tucker as #1. Vinatieri's clutch stats don't tell the story. Last two minutes is different than game-tying or game-winning kicks in super bowls or snow-covered playoff games. Gary Anderson should also be higher. It says he didn't have a strong leg, but early in his career, he had a booming kick - he just stuck around for a very long time. Total points should also have helped Vinatieri and Gary Anderson.

  2. Straight on Kickers from the 1960's who were IMO significant to the growth of PRO football, not necessarily NFL football.

    1. Gino Cappelletti, Boston Patriots. Steady, consistent and kept the Patriots in the race for the league Championship. NOTHING was written by his name above! What a shame! Cappelletti also played running back and receiver for the Patriots during the 1960's in the AFL. He should NEVER be dismissed by anyone who has allegiance to the NFL (against the AFL) just because he played in the AFL and not the NFL.
    2. Jim Turner, NY Jets and Denver Broncos. Turner's truncated, choppy approach to the ball and kick seemed to work for him more often than not and he was instrumental in the AFL Jets beating the NFL Colts in Super Bowl 3.
    3. George Blanda, Oakland Raiders. Blanda was one of the rarest of all pro football players of his era, having played Quarterback in the NFL for the Bears, was sent on his way and ended up leading the AFL Houston Oilers to back-to-back

    1. Cappelletti was someone who scored a lot but he probably should have had somethign written ... but he was a hair above average as a kicker, about that average as a receiver ... his 52% was just a franction above what the average was in pro football during his time.

      He's a combination player ... someone whowas good at two things but not great at either. I think he gets overrated by his fans because he was a good postion player who also kicked.

      But there are a lot of kickers I didn't write about -- Summerall and Waterfield to name a couple -- that are significant but this article was about the best all time and some of the metrics were how much above average they were compared to their peers. Rupert Patrick's book was excellent on this as was Football Perceptive, the website.

      In them -- as a kicker alone -- GIno didn't stand out like the top ones. There was other criteria, distance, clutch, kickoffs and a lot of things that went into it.

      Turner and Blanda were both mentioned in some deatil.

      Bottom line is you could do a list and it would be just as valid as mine, we just disagree about how good Cappelletti -- as a kicker --- was.

      Blanda--same deal... he was someone who became an above average kicker in his time with the Raiders ... but lacked distance and kickoffs, but was usually clutch.

      Anyway, if you find mistakes you are probably right.