There may not be a more thankless-yet-vital position in all of sports
Trying to narrow down a list of the NFL's 10 greatest kickers of all-time is not an easy task. Perhaps even more difficult is ranking them.
What matters most? Points scored? Success rates? Longevity? It's a tough call, but I think I cracked the nut.
Kickers, like referees in any sport, are meant to go unnoticed. They jog onto the field, have one job to do, do it, and jog off. That's it. If they do their jobs, we shrug it off on our way to the refrigerator or concession stand. It's only when they pull off the unthinkable, kick a game-winner — or in some cases fail — that we sit up, take notice and subsequently judge the “idiot” kicker.
Being one of the greatest kickers of all-time means doing your job well for an extended period of time while also accomplishing feats along the way that make you a household name.
10 Greatest Kickers in NFL History
10. Matt Stover
New York Giants 1990; Cleveland 1991-95; Baltimore 1996-2008; Indianapolis 2009
All-Pro, Pro Bowl (2000)
Super Bowl XXV (Giants), XXXV (Ravens) champion
Career success rates: 83.7 percent FG (471 made), 99.5 percent PAT
2,004 career points in 297 games (19 seasons)
Stover made his name with the Ravens. As great as the defenses he shared a locker room with were, he was about as good as a kicker can be for the PAT.
9. Jason Elam
Denver 1993-2007; Atlanta 2008-09
3-time All-Pro, 3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXII, XXXIII champion (Broncos)
Career success rates: 80.7 percent FG (436 made); 99.4 percent PAT
1,983 career points in 263 games (17 seasons)
Elam was one of the most prolific kickers of his era. He also owns the second-longest field goal in NFL history (63 yards).
8. Jason Hanson
All-Pro (1997), 2-time Pro Bowler
Career success rates: 82.4 percent FG (495 made), 98.8 percent PAT
2,150 career points in 327 games (21 seasons)
It doesn't matter what sport or position you play, you are probably doing it right when the same team holds on to you for 20 years. Hanson is the only kicker to ever be named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association.
7. Gary Anderson
Pittsburgh 1982-94; Philadelphia 1995-96; San Francisco 1997; Minnesota 1998-2002; Tennessee 2003-04
2-time first-team All-Pro, 4-time Pro Bowler
Career success rates: 80.1 percent FG (538 made); 99.2 percent PAT
2,434 career points in 353 games (23 seasons)
Anderson is quite simply the greatest kicker in the history of the greatest franchise of the Super Bowl era. For his troubles, the Steelers retired his No. 1 jersey.
6. Stephen Gostkowski
New England 2006-19
2-time first-team All-Pro, 4-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XLIX, LI, LII champion (Patriots)
Career success rates: 87.4 percent FG (340 made), 98.3 percent PAT
1,743 career points in 204 games (14 seasons)
Gostkowski was released by the Patriots in March, after compiling career stats that rank among the best all time. He still holds the NFL record for most consecutive PATs made with 523.
5. Adam Vinatieri
New England 1996-2005; Indianapolis Colts 2006-Present
3-time first-team All-Pro, 3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX (Patriots) and XLI (Colts) champion
Career success rates: 83.8 percent FG (599 made), 98.1 percent PAT
2,487 career points in 337 games (22 seasons)
NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)
Vinatieri is arguably the most famous kicker in NFL history, thanks to the three field goals that sealed Super Bowl wins for New England three different times and one miraculous kick in snowy Foxboro to beat the Raiders in the "Tuck Rule Game." He also is the NFL's all-time leading scorer.
4. George Blanda
Chicago 1949, ‘50-58; Baltimore Colts 1950; Houston Oilers 1960-66; Oakland 1967-75
4-time AFL All-Star
1961 AFL MVP, 1970 NFL MVP (Bert Bell Award)
Career success rates: 52.4 percent FG (335 made); 98.3 percent PAT
2,002 career points in 340 games (26 seasons)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1981
Blanda was as good as a passer as he was a kicker, once tossing seven touchdowns in a single game. He played professional football in four different decades. He has kicked more extra points than any player in pro football history and is the kicker on the All-Time All-AFL Team.
3. Morten Andersen
New Orleans 1982-94; Atlanta 1995-2000, ’06-07; New York Giants 2001; Kansas City 2002-03; Minnesota 2004
6-time All-Pro, 7-time Pro Bowler
Career success rates: 79.6 percent FG (565 made), 98.8 percent PAT
2,544 career points in 382 games (25 seasons)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2017
Andersen was the premier kicker throughout the 1980s. It was his longevity that made him a legend that kicked in three different decades.
2. Lou Groza
Cleveland 1946-59, ‘61-67
4-time first-team All-Pro, 9-time Pro Bowler
4-time NFL champion (1950, ’54-55, ‘64)
Career success rates: 54.9 percent FG (264 made), 97.2 percent PAT
1,608 career points in 268 games (21 seasons)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1974
Groza's career wasn't about the stats. It was about him revolutionizing the kicking game. He was the first kicker to be considered a threat to put points on the board from 40-50 yards out. The Hall of Famer raised the bar for kickers. Today, the Lou Groza Award is given to college football's top placekicker.
1. Justin Tucker
4-time first-team All-Pro, 3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XLVII Champion
Career success rates: 90.8 percent FG (276 made), 99 percent PAT
1,176 career points in 136 games (8 seasons)
Tucker shot to the top of this list as a result of what has been a dominant career this far. He is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, and could walk away from the game tody with a spot reserved in Canton.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.