Wide-open Hall field could (should?) open door for Andersen


Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

One look at the list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, and you get it. The field is so wide open that a wild card is liable to sneak in.

I’m talking about someone we didn’t expect; someone who wasn’t on anyone’s radar but made a last-minute rush to capture the flag. Someone like … well, someone like Morten Andersen.

AndersenYes, the former kicker who labored 25 years for a litany of teams, was a two-time all-decade choice and holds a passel of league records, including most games played, most field goals and most game-winning field goals.

But Morten Andersen was more than a talented guy who set a lot of records. He’s the NFL’s all-time scoring leader … and has been the past nine years, or since his retirement.

And that’s where the Morten Andersen conversation begins.

Name me one other pro sports Hall of Fame that doesn’t include its career scoring leader. You can’t because there is none. But there is in Canton, and now is the time to make a change.

Look, I think we all agree that LaDainian Tomlinson is going into the Hall this year as a first-ballot choice. And we probably agree that the time is right for former quarterback Kurt Warner, who made the cut from 15 to 10 in his first two years of eligibility.

But then the field is unchartered, which means there are three spots too tough to call. Just a hunch, but based on the move former tackle Joe Jacoby made last year — when, in his 18th year of eligibility, he went from his first appearance as a finalist to the Top 10 — I’d make him an early favorite.

But then what? Well, then the field is wide open. And that’s where Morten Andersen comes in.

AndersenMortenThis is his fourth consecutive year as a finalist, and he hasn’t made it to the Top 10 his previous three tries. So that makes him a longshot. But there were queues to clear in past years, and, for the most part, they have been.

That makes the timing right.

And so does this: The Class of 2018 is top-heavy with stars like Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Jeff Saturday, Ronde Barber, Steve Hutchinson, Richard Seymour and Ray Lewis. So this is the time to make a bold move…and I don’t mean by the candidates only.

I mean by voters, too.

With a tidal wave of new talent on its way next year, there is virtually no way a kicker is going to survive. In all likelihood, Andersen’s candidacy would wither and die, not to be revived — if it is at all — by the senior committee years from now.

And that would be a shame. Nope, now is the time to do something and not only because the time is right but because the candidate is.

I don’t care that Andersen ranks 51st in career field-goal accuracy. Heck, the only kicker in Canton, Jan Stenerud, ranks 100th. I don’t care that he spent a great part of his career indoors, either. Most people agree that Colts’ kicker Adam Vinatieri will reach the Hall some day, and he spent over half his career in a dome. I don’t even care that the Hall is blind to specialists, inducting only two — Stenerud and punter Ray Guy — in 53 years.

Nope, what I care about is that Morten Andersen was so good that he wasn’t chosen to one all-decade team. He was chosen to two. More than that, he changed the position. His leg was so strong that he gave coaches the confidence to try field goals of 50 or more yards – with Andersen hitting three in a 1995 game, an NFL record that since has been tied but never eclipsed.

He was named to seven Pro Bowl teams and was a six-time All-Pro. He once nailed a 60-yard field goal, which tied for the second longest in NFL history at the time, and he was so accurate he was nicknamed “Mr. Automatic.” He still holds the scoring record for two franchises, New Orleans and Atlanta, and he was never better than his last season when he converted 25 of 28 field-goal attempts … when he was 47.

Bottom line: Morten Andersen is worthy, and he belongs. He was the best at his position … for two decades … and he changed that position.  Nobody played in more games. Nobody made more field goals. And he set a scoring record that hasn’t been beaten.

Now, more than ever, the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame board of selectors has the perfect opportunity to reward him for his excellence. So do it.

(Morten Andersen photos courtesy of Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints)

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. Steve
    January 5, 2017
    Reply

    I’d like a coherent explanation on why Anderson repeatedly gets to the final 15 and Cliff Branch never has. I’ll wait.

    • January 5, 2017
      Reply

      Andersen NFL all-time leading scorer, all-time leading scorer for two franchises and all-decade not once but twice. Pretty compelling stuff.

  2. Rich Quodomine
    January 5, 2017
    Reply

    He is dogged by two things: the missed Kick in Jacksonville (Can’t believe that’s almost 22 years ago now) and the lack of Super Bowl appearancesm other than the Falcons. I do think he belongs in, but That said, I think the HoF needs to have a confab about what criteria specialists get. Part of it is numbers, which Andersen certainly has. Part of it is what I call Big Kicks. Vinatieri has his, Sternud had his. Does Andersen have that signature kick? Not just a Game Winner, but *the* kick, the one that someone remembers? Maybe the Falcons one in OT over the Vikes?

    • January 5, 2017
      Reply

      Maybe. That was game where Gary Anderson, who hadnt missed one all year, failed. Andersen did not. Good point, Rich. Just believe this is it for him. If he doesnt get in now its probably over. Class of 2018 loaded. So is Class of 2020.

  3. bachslunch
    January 6, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, would agree if Andersen were running out of time, but if memory serves he’s got about 15 eligible years left. Hope he gets in now, but otherwise am guessing he’ll probably hang around at the periphery and get elected late in his candidacy.

    • January 6, 2017
      Reply

      But when Vinatieri comes along who goes to the front of the line? It will be Vinatieri because more people in that room will remember him. Granted, hes HOF worthy, but latest is the greatest in this day and age and older guys … deserving guys … suffer. Best example: Drew Pearson. All-decade first team. Would choose him in a heartbeat. Buried among the senior candidates. Why? Simply forgotten.

  4. Steve
    January 9, 2017
    Reply

    I understand the case for Anderson, I’m just making a point about guys like Branch. A game-changing player with three rings and HOF support from the great Steeler defenders he clashed with in the 70’s and 80’s. Does anyone realize that he held the career postseason marks for receptions AND yards before the passing game opened up and Jerry Rice surpassed everybody?

    I’m just not ready to hear about Gary Anderson getting his day in the sun when Branch and other guys like him have had to wait much, much longer. Raider fans saw Stabler go in only after he passed away, did the voters learn anything from that? (not aimed at you personally Clark!)

    • January 9, 2017
      Reply

      Steve, did not take it personally. You raise good points. Branch is one of those guys on the cusp. But hes in senior pool now. Andersen … Morten Andersen … is not, but he could wind up there if we dont act fairly soon. I understand the pushback, but I care mostly that hes the leagues all-time career scoring leader and a two-time all-decade player … which means he was the best at his position for 20 years … and hes not in. Wouldnt happen in any other sport. Thx for writing and keep pushing Branch. He has a case.

  5. bachslunch
    January 10, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, agreed. It makes no sense to deny a deserving regularly eligible candidate because a particular Senior candidate isn’t in. That just fills up the Senior pool more.

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