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The Greatest Field Goal Kickers Ever, Part III

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 17, 2009

On Monday, I explained the methodology behind the grade for every kicker-season from 1960-2007. Yesterday, I looked at the best and worst single seasons over that time period. Today, we'll look at the best kickers by career.

The table below shows each kicker's career grade, using the familiar weight of 100% of the player's best season, 95% of his second best, 90% of his third best, etc. This is useful because when we think of Jan Stenerud, we're not thinking of his awful 1985 season -- we're thinking of him at his best. If you have a bunch of good seasons and several more average ones, a bad season as a very young or old player won't kill your career rating, and I think that is appropriate. Here's the list of the top 75 kickers from '60 to '07.

rk	kicker	               VAL    	rkyr
 1	Jan Stenerud	       136.2	1967
 2	Nick Lowery	       124.6	1978
 3	Morten Andersen	       109.6	1982
 4	Gary Anderson	       100.4	1982
 5	Eddie Murray		83.7	1980
 6	Garo Yepremian		82.7	1966
 7	Mark Moseley		76.0	1970
 8	Fred Cox		73.6	1963
 9	Jim Turner		73.1	1964
10	Jason Hanson		68.5	1992
11	Mike Vanderjagt		65.8	1998
12	Norm Johnson		65.1	1982
13	Matt Stover		63.7	1991
14	John Carney		63.1	1988
15	Jim Bakken		61.9	1962
16	George Blanda		58.5	1949
17	Don Cockroft		54.9	1968
18	Jason Elam		54.3	1993
19	John Kasay		54.2	1991
20	Al Del Greco		49.9	1984
21	Jeff Wilkins		47.0	1994
22	Pete Stoyanovich	43.2	1989
23	Horst Muhlmann		41.3	1969
24	Bruce Gossett		39.7	1964
25	Sam Baker		38.1	1953
26	Pat Leahy		37.2	1974
27	Errol Mann		36.0	1968
28	Tom Dempsey		35.2	1969
29	Mike Mercer		35.1	1961
30	Rafael Septien		35.0	1977
31	Ryan Longwell		34.5	1997
32	Doug Brien		33.8	1994
33	Efren Herrera		33.1	1974
34	Toni Fritsch		32.9	1971
35	Gene Mingo		32.4	1960
36	Gino Cappelletti	31.7	1960
37	Ray Wersching		31.4	1973
38	Raul Allegre		30.5	1983
39	Paul McFadden		29.2	1984
40	Don Chandler		28.8	1956
41	Rolf Benirschke		27.6	1977
42	Mick Luckhurst		27.5	1981
43	Shayne Graham		26.2	2001
44	Donald Igwebuike	25.5	1985
45	Joe Nedney		24.9	1996
46	Chester Marcol		24.9	1972
47	John Smith		24.0	1974
48	Adam Vinatieri		22.0	1996
49	Tony Zendejas		21.3	1985
50	John Leypoldt		20.2	1971
51	Todd Peterson		19.9	1994
52	Mike Hollis		19.3	1995
53	David Akers		18.7	1998
54	Dean Biasucci		18.6	1984
55	Chris Jacke		17.6	1989
56	Cary Blanchard		16.9	1992
57	Nate Kaeding		16.5	2004
58	George Blair		16.5	1961
59	Steve Christie		16.5	1990
60	Tony Franklin		15.5	1979
61	Matt Bahr		15.5	1979
62	Olindo Mare		13.8	1997
63	Rian Lindell		13.1	2000
64	Fuad Reveiz		12.9	1985
65	Pete Gogolak		12.8	1964
66	Rich Karlis		12.1	1982
67	Jeff Jaeger		11.4	1987
68	Jim Breech		11.0	1979
69	Josh Brown		10.9	2003
70	Mike Clark		10.2	1963
71	Bob Thomas		 9.7	1975
72	Sebastian Janikowski	 9.4	2000
73	George Fleming		 9.2	1961
74	Pat Summerall		 8.9	1952
75	Paul Edinger		 8.4	2000

When I ranked the RBs, I had a separate formula which awarded 10 points each year to the best RB, 9 points to the second best, and so on. We can do the same thing for kickers. Lowery had two seasons as the NFL's top kicker (+20), four seasons as runner up (+36), two more seasons in the top three (+16), along with a #5, #7, two #9 and a #10 finish. That totals 87, the most in this system. Stenerud had three seasons atop the charts (+30), two more seasons at #2 (+18) or #3 (+16), one season at #5, one at #8, and three where he rounded out the top ten. Here are the rankings in this scoring system:

kicker		       VALUE	rkyr	Rk Score
Nick Lowery	       124.6	1978	87
Morten Andersen	       109.6	1982	77
Jan Stenerud	       136.2	1967	76
Gary Anderson	       100.4	1982	70
Eddie Murray		83.7	1980	63
Mark Moseley		76.0	1970	56
Jason Hanson		68.5	1992	53
Norm Johnson		65.1	1982	53
Garo Yepremian		82.7	1966	52
Jim Turner		73.1	1964	52
Fred Cox		73.6	1963	51
Matt Stover		63.7	1991	51
George Blanda		58.5	1949	50
Don Cockroft		54.9	1968	49
Mike Vanderjagt		65.8	1998	47
Jason Elam		54.3	1993	46
Jim Bakken		61.9	1962	45
John Carney		63.1	1988	44
Gene Mingo		32.4	1960	42
Gino Cappelletti	31.7	1960	39
Bruce Gossett		39.7	1964	38
John Kasay		54.2	1991	37
Al Del Greco		49.9	1984	36
Errol Mann		36.0	1968	33
Pete Stoyanovich	43.2	1989	32
Don Chandler		28.8	1956	32
Jeff Wilkins		47.0	1994	30
Sam Baker		38.1	1953	29
Mike Mercer		35.1	1961	29
Pat Leahy		37.2	1974	27
Ryan Longwell		34.5	1997	26
Adam Vinatieri		22.0	1996	26
Tom Dempsey		35.2	1969	24
Doug Brien		33.8	1994	24
Toni Fritsch		32.9	1971	24
Tony Zendejas		21.3	1985	22
Efren Herrera		33.1	1974	21
John Smith		24.0	1974	21
Ray Wersching		31.4	1973	20
Rolf Benirschke		27.6	1977	20
David Akers		18.7	1998	20
Dean Biasucci		18.6	1984	20
Tony Franklin		15.5	1979	20
Horst Muhlmann		41.3	1969	19
Chester Marcol		24.9	1972	19
Chris Jacke		17.6	1989	19
Steve Christie		16.5	1990	19
Paul McFadden		29.2	1984	18
John Leypoldt		20.2	1971	18
Fuad Reveiz		12.9	1985	18
Paul Hornung	       - 4.4	1957	18
Rafael Septien		35.0	1977	17
Raul Allegre		30.5	1983	17
Todd Peterson		19.9	1994	17
Jeff Jaeger		11.4	1987	17
Joe Danelo	       - 8.2	1975	17
Joe Nedney		24.9	1996	16
George Blair		16.5	1961	16
Pete Gogolak		12.8	1964	16
Bob Thomas		 9.7	1975	16
Paul Edinger		 8.4	2000	16
Martin Gramatica	 3.4	1999	16
Roger Ruzek	       -10.2	1987	16
Rian Lindell		13.1	2000	15
Scott Norwood		 3.3	1985	15

Before I get to the trivia answers, I want to make three quick HOF notes.

  • Nick Lowery's HOF case is pretty strong. Comparing across positions is very difficult, but if you want to assume that Stenerud is a worthy HOFer, then I think Lowery should be considered one, as well. Stenerud may be slightly better, and he likely had a greater impact on the game (as Gary alluded to in the comments to Monday's post, Stenerud was one of the first soccer style kickers and he changed the way many viewed the kicker position). But still, Lowery was so accurate and successful for so long, that he should be a HOFer. And, of course, his numbers are not inflated by playing in a domed stadium or a particularly nice climate. Lowery kicked Stenerud out of KC in 1980 -- the plackicker's version of Young replacing Montana.
  • At least for now -- before we break field goal length down into even smaller increments and before we introduce some sort of weather variable to our formula -- I feel confident in stating that Morten Andersen was better than Gary Anderson. This seems to be the prevailing opinion, at least among those who can separate out which was which. What's more important, though, is that both are clearly ahead of everyone not named Stenerud or Lowery. Those four kickers are in a tier of their own. Is Andersen a HOFer? He's got the career records (points, field goals made, games) but I would still put Lowery in before Andersen.
  • Some will make a case for Vinatieri for the HOF one day. He certainly will look much better once I figure out how to include some sort of variable to boost up cold weather kickers. But outside of that, Vinatieri's HOF case is absurd. Even if he didn't have the two missed field goals in Super Bowl XXXVIII, his history of clutch performances is not nearly enough to boost an otherwise weak resume. Vinatieri will get some love from those who don't know how to grade kickers, from those who love the Patriots, and from those who enjoy sparking controversy, but he's not a legitimate candidate when there's just one pure placekicker in the HOF.

Finally, here are the trivia answers from Monday's post.

1) Who holds the record for most missed field goals in a season?

2) What is the record for most extra points missed in a season and what three kickers hold it?

3) What kicker has the lowest single season field goal percentage, minimum one field goal made?

4) Who was the first soccer style kicker, what team signed him and in what year?

5) What two kickers hold the record for longest field goal made?

6) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive extra points made?

7) What three kickers hold the record for most XP made in a game?

8) What two kickers hold the record for most field goals attempted in a season?

9) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive field goals made?

10) Who are the only five kickers to make 100% of their field goal attempts in a single season, minimum ten attempts? Hint: The fifth kicker joined the group in 2008.

11) Who attempted the most field goals in a single game?

12) Name the three kickers in the HOF? Hint: Only one of the players was a pure kicker.

13) Who is the only kicker to win an NFL MVP award?

14) Recycled trivia edition: What player/kicker combination have combined for the most touchdowns/point after touchdowns?

15) What kicker has the most points in a season?

16) What kicker has made and attempted the most extra points in a season?

17) What kicker has made the most field goals in a single season?

18) What three kickers have hit three 50-yard field goals in a single game?

19) Who holds the Johnny Unitas kicking record -- most consecutive games with a field goal made?

20) What kicker holds the record for most field goals made in a game?

21) How many kickers have been selected in the first round of the draft?

22) What kicker set the record with 18 consecutive years with one team?

23) What kicker spent one year with four different teams?

24) What two kickers hold the record for playing for the most teams?

25) What kicker holds the record for most Pro Bowls made?

26) What kicker holds the record for most first team All Pro honors?

27) Who has made the most field goals in NFL history?

28) Who has missed the most field goals in NFL history?

29) Who has scored the most points in NFL history?

30) Who has made the most extra points in NFL history?

31) What two kickers have made the most 50 yard field goals in a single season?

1. Paul Hornung, 1964, 26 missed field goals.
2. Eight, by Tom Dempsey (1976), Steve Little (1979) and David Trout (1981).
3. Bob Timberlake, with a 7% success rate after going 1-for-15 in 1965.
4. Pete Gogolak, Buffalo Bills, 1964.
5. Tom Dempsey, 1970 and Jason Elam, 1998 each hit 63-yard field goals.
6. Matt Stover, with 386 consecutive extra points made and counting; he set the record in an otherwise nondescript loss to the Giants this season. Floyd Turner caught the last touchdown pass that preceded a Stover failed PAT.
7. Pat Harder (1948), Bob Waterfield (1950) and Charlie Gogolak (1966) with nine.
8. Bruce Gossett (1966) and Curt Knight (1971) with forty-nine attempts.
9. Mike Vanderjagt, 42 field goals made, 2002-2004.
10. Tony Zendejas (1991, 17-17), Gary Anderson (1998, 35-35), Jeff Wilkins (2000, 17-17), Mike Vanderjagt (2003, 37-37) and Garrett Hartley (2008, 13-13); only Zendejas (Los Angeles Rams) did not play for a dome team.
11. Jim Bakken, 1967, with nine attempts and seven field goals made in a 28-14 win against the Steelers.
12. Lou Groza, George Blanda and Jan Stenerud.
13. Mark Moseley, 1982.
14. Jim Brown and Lou Groza is almost certainly the answer, but we don't have confirmation data on that; the modern record is shared by Moseley and John Riggins and Jerry Rice and Mike Cofer.
15. Gary Anderson, 164 points, 1998. Bonus answer: Paul Hornung, with 176 points scored in 1960, but 90 of those points came on touchdowns.
16. Stephen Gostkowski, 74 for 74, 2007.
17. Neil Rackers, 40 field goals made, 2005.
18. Morten Andersen (1995), Kris Brown (2004) and Neil Rackers (2005).
19. Matt Stover, 38 consecutive games, 1999-2001.
20. Rob Bironas, eight, 2007.
21. Three. Sebastian Janikowski (2000), Steve Little (1978) and Charlie Gogolak (1966). Tony Zendejas was also a first round pick in the 1984 Supplemental Draft.
22. Pat Leahy, 18 seasons, New York Jets.
23. Jose Cortez, 2005, Philadelphia, Dallas, Indianapolis and San Francisco.
24. Eddie Murray and Joe Nedney, seven.
25. Morten Andersen, seven.
26. Morten Andersen, three.
27. Morten Andersen, 565 field goals made.
28. George Blanda, 304 field goals missed.
29. Morten Andersen, 2,544 points scored.
30. George Blanda, 959 extra points made.
31. Morten Andersen, 1995 and Jason Hanson, 2008, with eight. Hanson was a perfect 8-8.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 7:27 am and is filed under Best/Worst Ever. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.