(Photos courtesy of the New Orleans Saints)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
The NBA’s leading all-time scorer is in the Hall of Fame. The NHL’s leading all-time scorer is in the Hall of Fame. Major-league baseball’s leading all-time scorer is in the Hall of Fame. And the NFL’s leading all-time scorer is … at home reading his mail?
We don’t make ‘em up, people. Former kicker Morten Andersen not only isn’t in the Hall; he’s never been discussed as one of its 10 annual finalists.
OK, so he’s been discussed, and that’s a step forward. But would someone please tell me why a guy who not only scored an NFL-record 2,544 career points but played in an NFL-record 382 games, nailed an NFL-record 565 field goals and is the leading career scorer for two teams – New Orleans and Atlanta – isn’t in Canton?
Detractors will tell you it's because he’s a kicker, and, like it or not, there’s a prejudice among the Hall’s 46 selectors against special-teams performers. Furthermore, he kicked much of his career in domed stadiums, and voters will subtract points there, too.
Well, then, great. First of all, Jan Stenerud is in the Hall, and last time I checked he was a kicker. Second, I don’t care where he kicked. Andersen was good enough to be named to two all-decade teams, which means he was considered to be the best at his position for two decades.
Yeah, I’d call that remarkable.
But that’s not all. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a six-time All-Pro and someone who not only set 13 NFL records but was so reliable he was nicknamed “Mr. Automatic.” Yet he’s not good enough to get into Canton without a ticket? Please.
“I thought my numbers historically stack up against my peers and that I’ve been relevant at the position; that I changed the way people thought about the position,” he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune a year ago. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done.”
He should be.
He had a strong leg, once hitting a 60-yard field goal which was then the second longest in NFL history. He was accurate, nailing 80 percent of his kicks. And he was indefatigable, playing his last season when he was 47 … hitting a career-best 25 of 28 field goals with Atlanta.
But his career field-goal percentage isn’t enough to satisfy critics, who point to Andersen’s rank of 46th among all-time kickers. OK, so he ranks 46th. Stenerud ranks 96th. And you know where John Unitas ranks among quarterbacks? He’s tied at 76th with Jim McMahon and Bert Jones.
So I don’t care where Morten Andersen or John Unitas or any of the past greats rank now. I just care if they were among the best of their generation, and Morten Andersen was. Remember, he wasn’t named to one all-decade team. He was named to two.
The New Orleans Saints in 2009 get it. They inducted him into their Hall of Fame, then last month made him the fourth member of that team’s Ring of Honor.
Now Morten Andersen waits on Canton. Eligible for induction for three years, he’s been a finalist the last two – and that’s a good sign. But he hasn’t made the cut from 15 to 10, and until that happens let’s be honest: He’s not close to the Hall.
“I respect the process,” Andersen told the Times-Picayune. “If I’m lucky and worthy enough in the eyes of the committee, hopefully I’ll be back.”
Oh, he’ll be back. I have no doubt about that. What I want to know is: When will he be in?