RIP to Ray Guy, the Best There Ever Was in the Punting Game
Some may have been tempted over the half century since the late, great Al Davis shocked the football world by using his 1st round pick (No. 23 overall) to draft a punter to downplay what Ray Guy accomplished. After all, they would argue, a punter is only a specialist. Someone who does one, simple thing over and over again isn't someone we need to celebrate. And some would argue that therefore he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, anymore than would a long snapper or a holder.
On this day, such arguments are not to be considered. Or even tolerated. Because now that Guy has finally completed that great Coffin Corner kick that awaits us all, now is the time for appreciating him. For offering the simple respect for a man who was nothing less than the greatest ever at his chosen profession. And how many of us who have ever passed through this 4th & long we call life ever been able to say that?
A cliche we've heard ad nauseum in a sport that has as many specialists as football goes like, "Blank McBlank isn't just a black, he's a football player." Whether it's the million times we heard it about Brett Favre or Adam Vinatieri when he'd make the tackle in kickoff coverage, that expression has been overused to death. But in Ray Guy's case, it was very much true. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he earned the distinction:
And an athlete he most definitely was. A multi-sport athlete at that. And a success at everything he did:
His resume speaks for itself:
- Seven Pro Bowls, including six in a row
- Three First Team All Pros in a row
- One Second Team All Pro
- Three time Super Bowl champion
- Three time leader in Yards per Punt
- The only punter in the Hall of Fame
From his Wikipedia page:
Although Guy rarely kicked for distance, his punts often left opposing offenses pinned deep in their own end of the field. The statistic for hang time was instituted in the NFL during his career, reportedly because of him. Pro Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan once said of Guy, "He's the first punter you could look at and say: 'He won games.'"
In Super Bowl XVIII, Guy punted seven times for 299 yards (42.7 average), with 244 net yards (34.8 average). Five of his punts pinned the Washington Redskins inside their own 20. Due in part to his effective punting, the Los Angeles Raiders easily won the game, 38–9.
In fact, Guy's hang time seemed so paranormal, that Oilers coach Bum Phillips suspected him of pumping helium into the ball. Especially because he noticed the Raiders used a new ball for every punt. And in a sort of Bronze Age Deflategate, he had Billy White Shoes Johnson keep one of the balls and sent it to a lab at Rice University to have it checked. The football tested negative for illegal lighter-than-air substances. But tested positive for heavy doses of Guy's superhuman foot.
No less an authority than John Madden - who called Guy one of the most valuable players on his Raiders teams - said that there were fewer arguments and more of a consensus in the war room to draft Guy than any pick he'd ever been a part of:
Because Davis' personnel staff recognized what we've all known for the 50 years since. That he was the best there had ever been.
Time and improvements in the game, including enhanced kicking balls, have since buried Guy's statistics. He's been leapfrogged by modern punters to the point he's out of the Top 20 in terms of punts and total yards. And out of the Top 80 in Yards per Punt. That's just the nature of progress. But in an age when the balls used by special teams were no different than game balls and training methods consisted of a pack of Winstons, a fifth of tequila and taking Bay Area hippie chicks back to your motel room two at a time, he set the gold standard at his position. And it hasn't been matched by anyone since. Numbers don't always tell the story. True greatness doesn't need them to.