In 2007, former Oakland Raider’s Punter Ray Guy told the Oakland Tribune, “To this day, that’s the thing I get asked about the most.”
Can you guess what that one thing is?
Maybe being the first and only pure punter selected in the first round of the NFL draft in 1973? Nope.
His experience at the Super Bowl, in which he was a participant three times? Negative. How about his seven Pro Bowl appearances? You’re getting hotter.
In 1976, Ray Guy, who was representing the AFC in the Pro Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome, punted a ball into the scoreboard, and that’s the thing that Guy gets asked about more than anything to this day.
Hence, the legend of Ray Guy.
The height of the scoreboard in the Superdome that day was 90 feet off the playing field. It was later raised to 200 feet.
Fast-forward to August 2009.
In a preseason game, Titans Punter A.J. Trapasso hit the bottom of the giant video screen at Cowboys Stadium. Not coincidentally, the video screen sat just 90 feet above the playing field, the minimum required level.
So let’s now delve into Guy’s career numbers to disprove the popular belief that he is, in fact, the greatest punter in NFL history.
Ray Guy played 14 seasons in the NFL. He led the league in punting three times, meaning he had the best gross average. His highest single-season average (45.3) was in his rookie campaign of 1973. His career long punt was 74 yards.
Guy played in 207 games, punted for 44,493 yards and averaged 42.4 yards in his career. He received three first-team All Pro selections.
Now let’s evaluate Jerrel “Thunder Foot” Wilson, a punter who had just as much of a statistically-rewarding career as Ray Guy.
Wilson played 16 seasons in pro football; seven in the AFL where he won the punting title twice, and nine seasons in the NFL where he led the league in punting three times.
Wilson’s highest one-year average came in his 11th season at 45.5 yards (opposed to Guy’s best season of 45.3). His career long punt was 72 yards.
Wilson played in 217 games and punted for 46,139 yards with a 43.0 career average (opposed to Guy’s career average of 42.4). Wilson was selected to three Pro Bowls, and played in two Super Bowls.
In comparing two of the best punters in the history of the NFL, Wilson was clearly the more accomplished player.
Wilson won more punting titles (five) than Guy (three). Even if you throw out Wilson’s AFL punting titles, they are still tied at three.
Wilson’s best single-season average was 45.5, compared to Guy’s 45.3.
Wilson also had a better career average (43.0) to Guy’s 42.4.
Wilson even had a better Super Bowl average (46.9) than Guy (39.1).
We can even take this a step further and take a quick look at another premier punter in the Super Bowl era.
Chris Mohr, punter for the Buffalo Bills, played in three Super Bowls (losing all of them, of course). Guy played in three Super Bowls, winning all three.
But as we dig into their respective performances on the game’s biggest stage, there isn’t much of a difference.
In Super Bowl XI, XV and XVIII, Guy averaged punts of 32.6, 42.0 and 42.7 per game, respectively, for a career Super Bowl average of 39.1. Six of his punts in the Super Bowl were downed inside the 20, and his best punt was 53 yards.
In Super Bowl XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII, Mohr averaged punts of 35.0, 45.3 and 37.6 per game, respectively, for a Super Bowl average of 39.3. Seven of his punts in the Super Bowl were downed inside the 20, and his best punt was also 53 yards.
Just because a guy can hit the underside of an indoor structure 90 feet off the ground, doesn’t make him the best punter of all-time.
But yet, that’s why we remember Ray Guy. That’s why every August when the Hall of Fame ballots are cast, there is a nationwide outcry for Ray Guy—“the greatest punter ever”— that he needs to be inducted!
However, the numbers clearly show there is at least one other player at his position, if not more (see Sammy Baugh) that is just as deserving for the title of greatest punter of all-time.
As far as the Hall of Fame goes, I’m not ready for a pure punter to be inducted just yet.
Courtesy of Mark Kappel.