CANTON, Ohio — Morten Andersen was more than a great placekicker. He was a pioneer, a guy with such a strong and accurate leg he gave coaches the confidence to try long-distance field goals they once never considered.
But he’s more than that, too.
He’s the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and only the second pure placekicker — and the first in 26 years — in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Jan Stenerud is the other). That’s the good news. But it’s also the bad news. A first-team all-decade choice for the 1980s AND 1990s and a Hall-of-Fame choice for two franchises (Atlanta and New Orleans), it still took Andersen four tries as a finalist before he was elected … and even then it was a mild upset.
Andersen, who will be inducted into the Hall Saturday, believes voters need to wake up to specialists because of their importance in the game.
“I would argue that, besides the quarterback position, the kicking position might be the most important one on the football field,” he said Friday. “It affects more games … more and more situations in the games … it affects the outcomes of games more than any other position besides the quarterback position. That’s my feeling on it.
“I hope my election moves the conversation forward and allows others to be considered, like a Steve Tasker, like a Sean Landeta, like a Gary Anderson. When Adam Vinatieri hangs them up, that he gets consideration. There are a lot of guys … Jason Hanson, Bill Bates, a Dallas Cowboys special teamer … a lot of guys I feel that perhaps should be looked at more seriously.
“It’s a very tight squeeze, I know that. I’ve felt it for five years now. It feels really good sitting on this side now. And it’s my responsibility now to have the conversation in an honest and transparent way on how can we move this conversation and leave this bias behind us and start looking at specialists as a viable and undeniable weapon in the game of football.”
But the conversation is moving. Andersen is the second specialist elected to the Hall in three years (punter Ray Guy was chosen to the Class of 2014) — and this after only one was chosen in the first 53. So that’s a good sign, right?
“I hope so,” said Andersen. “I hope that’s the case, and I hope we don’t have another 23 years (the gap between Stenerud and Guy) where no one gets in. I’m not saying a specialist should go in every single year, but every three to five years we’ve got to get a guy in there. We’ve got to keep getting guys in there.”