The announcement that Ray Guy had been named as a finalist for election into Hall of Fame today spurred an old yet classic debate. Should a punter, specifically Ray Guy, receive football’s highest individual honor?
Ray Guy was the first punter to ever be drafted in the first round. Over the years, the Raiders have often confused us with over-drafting players, but Guy was actually probably worth the pick. He played for 14 seasons in the NFL, punting 1,049 times for 44,493 yards.
Guy was noted for having an incredibly high and long punt, but he rarely gets the credit he deserves for being a precision punter as well. He had the ability to boom punts 70 yards or drop them inside the 20-yard line. Basically, he was a complete punter.
Most arguments in opposition to a punter getting elected into the Hall of Fame essentially say this; “He was just a punter, not a real football player.”
Frankly, that’s one of the dumbest arguments anyone can make. Punting is an underappreciated art, but it’s still a valuable tool. Bad punters can actually lose games just as quickly as bad quarterbacks. Late in games, teams often rely on their punter to bury their opponent deep in their own territory. With a bad punt, the opponent may get great field position with the chance to win the game.
I’m not saying we should be putting Ray Guy and other great punters on the same level we put guys like John Elway or Dan Marino. Still, punters are players, and Ray Guy was the best punter of all time.
So, should there be punters in the Hall of Fame? Yes, but there’s no reason to start electing them to the honor every year. Finding a decent punter in the NFL is relatively easy. Finding a great punter that actually reaches “weapon” status is incredibly rare, but that’s just what Ray Guy really was. He was a defensive weapon. It’s much harder to score on an 80-yard drive than a 50-yard drive, and more often than not, teams were forced to drive long distances by Ray Guy. That’s what makes Ray Guy worthy of being elected to the Hall of Fame.