Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy became the first pure punter in the history of the NFL to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Slingin Sammy Baugh was also a punter, but his accolades as a quarterback are what got him into Canton. But Guy was nothing but a punter, and a great one at that. So after years of failing to be inducted, I expected Raiders fans to be unanimous in their celebration of his induction.
This, however, was not how things went down on Twitter at all. Rather than seeing nothing but Raiders rejoice, there were a lot of Raiders fans arguing over whether or not Guy deserved the honor. The two most common arguments were that Shane Lechler is in fact the best punter in NFL history, not Guy and that Guy does not belong in the Hall of Fame before wide receiver Tim Brown, who failed once again to be inducted.
Both of these arguments make absolutely no sense to me.
First off let me start by saying that Tim Brown is my favorite player of all time. I am a die hard fan and the only Raiders jersey I have ever purchased is a Tim brown. I am a season ticket holder and wear his jersey to every game every year. In my mind, he defines being a Raider and I believe he deserves to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Despite all of that, there is no question in my mind that Ray Guy is more deserving than Tim Brown of being in the Hall of Fame.
First let me address the idea held by many that no punter should be in the Hall of Fame. This is plain and simply a stupid argument. While not flashy, only someone who knows nothing about football would claim that they do not impact the game. Punting isn’t exciting and does not put points on the board, but it is vital to the game.
I cannot count the number of times I have heard commentators and experts remark about the importance of field position in the NFL. Routinely, coaches choose to punt and take an advantage in field position over attempting a long field goal that may put points on the board. That’s because field position is an incredibly important aspect of a winning strategy and your punter is the key weapon in the field position battle.
So while some may want to argue that Lechler is a better punter than Guy, even if true, it should not preclude Guy. Both are truly unique talents who are easily the best in the history of the game. You should be truly great to get into the Hall of Fame and both guys fit that description and their position should not limit either one’s candidacy.
But besides the fact that punters have been unfairly neglected in the Hall of Fame, a guy should always be included in the Hall of Fame when their performance played a role in the development and growth of the game. To argue that Guy does not fit that description is turning a blind eye to the history of the NFL. The terms “hang time” and “directional punting” are traced to Ray Guy’s career and hang time was even turned into an officially recorded stat as a result of Guy.
Before he changed things, punters in the NFL simply kicked the ball as far and as straight as possible. The theory behind this being that it was the best possible way to secure good field position while limiting risk. Directional kicking and kicking out of bounds was unheard of. The risk of a shank increased greatly as a punter attempted to angle his punts to the sidelines so it simply was not done.
Guy changed that. With his astounding accuracy, Guy changed the game. He began kicking the ball out of bounds intentionally and the results are what everyone sees in every NFL game today. The concept of the coffin corner punt was non existent before Guy. Hell, the NFL did not even start keeping statistics on punts landed inside the 20 yard line until Ray Guy.
These are all concepts that are house hold terms for any NFL fan. The casual fans know of these concepts even if they do not know all of the key phrases. For many, it is hard to even imagine an NFL in which punters did not try and pin returners to sidelines or land the ball as close to the goal line as possible. But they are commonplace today only because Ray Guy pushed the envelope years ago and showed how big of an impact a punter can have in an NFL game.
Any player who has that big of an impact is a Hall of Famer. Period.
Tim Brown is a Hall of Fame player. He had a great career and did so with some terrible talent throwing him the ball for most of his time in the NFL. But you cannot say he is a top two receiver of all time. You cannot say that his play changed how the position was played. He is great, Ray Guy is more deserving of being a member of the Hall of Fame.