The Pro Football Hall of Fame should enshrine its first punter in 2014, as the seniors committee selected former Oakland Raiders legend Ray Guy as one of the two nominees for consideration.
In September, the NFL Hall Of Fame will celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is, simply put, an insult to the position that a punter has never been enshrined in the 50 years of the Hall’s existence. My argument for Ray Guy’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame is not centered around the fact that a punter has to go in for the sake of it, but rather his contribution to the game.
Before there was Ray Guy, a punter was simply overlooked as an outcast, his impact negligible. In 1972, Guy belted a 93-yard punt in a college game. In 1973, Guy was drafted in the first round (23rd overall) by the Raiders. Many around the league thought Al Davis had lost his mind, but the abilities of Guy vindicated the pick.
Ray Guy’s impact invented the term ”Hang Time,” his booming kicks pinning the opponents in their own half, due to the coverage ability created by the extra duration of the punt. An amazing statistic that many Hall of Fame voters have conveniently ignored is that Guy had 210 punts land inside the 20 while he had 128 touchbacks. That is an amazing accomplishment considering how modern day punters get more touchbacks. Those statistics don’t include the first three years of his career when records weren’t kept.
Guy was the first punter to be drafted in the first round, he played in 207 consecutive games, he averaged 42.4 yards, and get this: he never had a punt blocked in his career.
By comparison, Shane Lechler has a career average of 47.4 yards per punt. Lechler himself is considered Hall of Fame material, but it’ll take a pioneer like Guy to open the gates for the position.
One of the few knocks on Guy’s resume is that his career punt average ranks him 78th all-time. The reason for his low average is not a lack of leg strength, but the fact that his teams had a shorter field, and he was always trying to pin the opponents close to the goal line. The 70’s and 80’s Raider teams were dynamic and being a punter on such teams meant having short fields. Guy was perfect for the situation due to his precise ball placement on his kicks.
Another one of the stumbling blocks for special teamers has been the argument that they only take the field, an average of 4-5 plays a game, so their impact can’t be all that significant.
One of the finer plays in Guy’s career came in Super Bowl XVIII against the Washington Redskins, when he one handed a bad snap and belted a 42 yard punt. Instead of a disastrous play, Guy used his athleticism to flip the field during a clutch moment of a supremely significant game. Guy was also the scout team quarterback and the third string quarterback as well. In college he played as a defensive back so his versatility was widely realized.
Opposing teams had to game plan Guy’s perfect sideline punts if they wanted better field position, against the vaunted Raiders defense. Many of Guy’s contemporaries realized that he could affect the outcome of games, and that was a first for a punter. Ray Guy revolutionized the position.
Many of the Hall voters are loath to let in a kick returner or a punter, but they need to realize it is the “Pro Football Hall Of Fame” not the “Offense and Defense Hall Of Fame.” Ray Guy is one of only two players from the NFL 75th Anniversary team who has not been inducted into the Hall Of Fame. The other exclusion has been kick returner Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.
The Pro Football Hall Of Fame has received a lot of criticism, and the fact that no pure punter is in it has to be a glaring oversight. There are legions of Raider fans who believe there is a certain bias against the franchise when it comes to the Hall, but I disagree–it should be difficult to get into the Hall Of Fame. The long list of former Raider greats not yet enshrined include Tim Brown, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, Cliff Branch, Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, Ken Stabler, and Daryle Lamonica.
The Hall of Fame has had many contradictions like Dan Fouts, Bob Griese, and Joe Namath get in–but guys with similar or better statistics like Ken Stabler, Rich Gannon, and Jim Plunkett can’t get in.
The journey that remains for Guy is to garner 80 percent of the 46 votes to enter football immortality. My hope is that the writers entrusted with the honor of deciding the fates of these gridiron greats come to their senses and induct the very special Ray Guy into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.