As you know by now, there are only two pure placekickers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen. But there should be a third, and, no, I’m not talking about Adam Vinatieri … not yet, anyway. I’m talking about someone who’s waited on Canton for years.
Someone like … Nick Lowery.
Go ahead and roll your eyes, but, yes, Nick Lowery, star of the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets and numero uno on the stat site, Football Perspective, for career placekickers — ahead of Andersen and ahead of Stenerud.
“Frankly,” wrote Chase Stuart of Football Perspective, “it’s not much of a question as to who is the best kicker ever. Until presented with evidence to the contrary, that honor belongs to Nick Lowery.”
I thought that was a bold statement, too, until I consulted our friend and colleague, John Turney of Pro Football Journal, for his thoughts. And his thoughts were consistent with those of Stuart, with Turney last summer ranking Lowery as his top kicker of all time.
As he explained, Lowery had everything. He was the most accurate kicker of his era. He kicked outdoors, conquering the weather elements at Arrowhead Stadium. He had such a strong leg he could power field goals from 58 yards. And in PAL and PAL2 — Points Above the Average, a statistic invented by Rupert Patrick of Pro Football Researchers Association — Lowery was first.
“Lowery was the most accurate kicker of his era,” Turney said, “and even past that for a few years. For me, I followed Lowery’s career in the 1980s and 1990s.I remember his clutch kicks and many of the distances. I found it odd he never got the acclaim he deserved. He easily could have been the all-decade kicker of the 1980s and 1990s (he led both in kicking percentages).”
Yeah, but he wasn’t. Andersen was. And that’s one reason he was elected to Canton, and Lowery wasn’t.
But Turney makes a good point. If Lowery was that accomplished — and he was, the league’s most accurate kicker when he retired and a guy who beat out Stenerud in Kansas City — why hasn’t he been considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I mean, he’s never been a semifinalist, and it’s been 21 years since he retired.
One of the reasons, of course, is that until recently the Hall’s board of selectors never took specialists all that seriously. There was only one — Stenerud — elected in the first 51 years. But then punter Ray Guy was chosen in 2014 and, three years later, Andersen was elected. So that’s two in four years, and hallelujah. But why stop there? Vinatieri will be on a fast track when he retires, and, frankly, Lowery should’ve been, too.
But he wasn’t … and he’s not … and I don’t get it.
“I once saw a stat,” Lowery told us when we had him on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast earlier this month, “that during the regular season — all the kicking game — punting, kickoffs, returns, field goals, everything … determines about one out of every three outcomes. But in the playoffs, it close to doubles. So the pressure on kickers is tremendous, and I do think it’s time that more recognition has happened.”
So do I. That’s why I’d like to see Lowery at least discussed — meaning he not only makes the ballot as a semifinalist but makes the cut to 15 as a finalist. No, I don’t think it happens, either, but I wish it would. The guy was a seven-time All-Pro who set a passel of records during his career — including most games with two field goals of 50 or more yards, more than 15 game-winners (including two in the playoffs), most career field goals (384) and highest career percentage (80.0).
And this from someone who learned how to cope with the changing atmospheric and field conditions of Arrowhead Stadium and, later, the Meadowlands. Nick Lowery wasn’t just a good placekicker. He was a great one. There should be a place for someone like that … and there is.