State Your Case: Why it’s time that Cards’ Jim Bakken is heard

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals

After electing one specialist in its first 51 years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame took a sharp U-turn and inducted two in the past five. So, with its board of selectors more amenable to the position I figured it’s time to propose another candidate. And I will.

Jim Bakken.

The former Cardinals’ star was one of the most decorated placekickers in the 1960s and 1970s — a two-time all-decade choice who was named to the 1960s’ and 70s’ teams. So what? So there are only two other kickers who can say that — Gary Anderson and Morten Andersen — and Morten is one of the two kickers in Canton.

Bakken already has a place in Canton, with a shoe that he used in a 1967 game vs. Pittsburgh encased there. It was that contest where he set an NFL record by hitting seven field goals, a mark that wasn’t broken until over 40 years later when Rob Bironas nailed eight.

When he retired, Bakken was the third-highest scorer in NFL history and is still the Cardinals’ all-time leading scorer. He led the league in field goals twice, led it in accuracy twice and led it in scoring once. He finished in the top six kickers in field-goal percentage nine times. He was in the top three of field goals made five times. And he was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

Plus, he had something more than ability. Something like … availability. He’s the Cards’ all-time leader in games played (234), though Larry Fitzgerald can tie him if he appears in all 16 games this season.

“No range,” NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal, said of Bakken “but he was more accurate than all of the straight-on kickers of his era. Clutch kicks, too.”

Granted, his numbers pale in comparison to today’s kickers, with 22 of the league’s NFL teams hitting on 80 percent or more of their field-goal tries a year ago. Bakken hit 63.1 percent of his kicks during his career, not all that far removed from Hall-of-Famer Jan Stenerud’s 66.8. And, yes, as Turney pointed out, Bakken didn’t have the range. He was 1 of 21 in his career in field goals of 50 or more yards.

But it was a different era when 50-yard field goals were as common as mittens in Honolulu.

All I know is that Bakken was considered one of the game’s two best kickers for two decades, and that should count for something. No, it shouldn’t put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame tomorrow, but it should provoke a discussion and give him the audience he hasn’t had.

Previous Dick Ebersol: How Pat Bowlen "changed pro football forever"
Next NFL MVP in 2018? Look to Green Bay & Aaron Rodgers


  1. bachslunch
    September 4, 2018

    Fine article, Clark. Your points are well argued, and the added commentary by Turney is also valuable.

    No question Jim Bakken has a solid HoF case. His honors of 2/4/60s70s is strong at his position, and he ranks extremely well in the indefatigable Chase Stuart’s adjusted PK rankings. Here’s his top-10 for 1960 and later. Asterisk means a HoFer:


    (Lou Groza would rank well up in this mix if it went back further)

    The only flaw in Bakken’s game as Turney rightly points out is his short leg. Of Stuart’s top-10, he has the shortest average length for FGs made, at 30.2, and he made only one FG from beyond the 50 yard line in 21 tries. But he was indeed extremely accurate related to his era, especially from within the 40 yard line where it’s most expected, and there’s loads of good value in that.

    I’d prefer to see Lowery, Hansen, and Anderson get elected first, but Bakken would definitely be next in line after that. A Bakken bandwagon wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, am thinking. As Rick rightly points out, we badly need to get more candidates in the room, and agreed that this point can’t be made often enough.

    • September 5, 2018

      As usual, good to hear from you … though you’re a little later this time. Usually, I find your comments the moment I awake. I’m under no illusions. Bakken’s not going to get in. Seniors like him have been forgotten. But I just wish we’d discuss some of these guys more. At least the board seems more receptive to specialists now, but why can’t we get guys like Tasker, Mitchell or White Shoes Johnson in the room? Thanks again for the note.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.