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You Love Ray Guy
the mmqb mailbag

You Love Ray Guy

My comments on the former Raiders punter and the Hall of Fame elicited spirited feedback—as usual
(John Iacono/SI)

The mail arrived this morning. The bag was stuffed—overstuffed, really—with Ray Guy email, after I wrote about Guy's Seniors Committee nomination for the Hall of Fame in this week’s MMQB column. So let’s have at it:

HE’S A NO-DOUBTER

I remember when Ray Guy was drafted number one for the Raiders [in 1973], and I thought Al Davis was crazy. Crazy like a fox is what he was. Those Raider teams were strong offensively, so Guy was trying to pin the other team in a hole a lot. On occasions when the Raiders were deep in their own end Guy would get them out of a hole, with booming punts! He never had one blocked and loved to tackle guys on returns. Guy deserves to be in the Hall. He was much more than simple statistics.

—Ed, Webster, N.Y.

I appreciate everyone’s passion about Guy. And I agree he was an excellent punter. I just think we’ve gotten into “he’s a legend’’ status with him, and the numbers are close to what other punters of his era were.

STATS AREN’T THE WHOLE STORY

I have a complaint with your analysis of Ray Guy's importance and performance as a punter and football player. By only using the statistical measure of average yards per punt, you provide a very narrow consideration of Ray Guy's superior talent. Having witnessed more Raider games then anyone else (except Al Davis) I can give you a lot of first-hand testimony as to his greatness. During many clutch games with the Raider offense struggling and deep in its own territory, I saw Ray Guy hit a booming punt that made the opposing team have to start not at the 50 but at its own 20 or 25 yard line. Many other times I saw Ray Guy hit beautiful coffin corner punts that put the opponent up against its own goal post. And who can forget Super Bowl 18 and his miraculous one-hand grab of an over-the-head snap and subsequent booming punt. I don't understand why your analysis didn't have quotes and comments from opposing coaches and players who played against Ray Guy, which could have lent a more impressive and balanced analysis of his performance and influence on the game.

—Richard

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Thanks for your contribution. As to why I didn’t include other coaches and players talking about Guy, that’s for a story about Guy, not something in my “Stat of the Week” section.

WE FEARED HIM

As a Broncos fan back then (and now), I can tell you that Ray Guy was the only punter we ever worried about on the schedule. We faced the Raiders twice each season, and before each game we knew we had to deal with predictable heroics from Ken Stabler (or whoever the QB was) and Ray Guy. He always had the potential to be a game-changer, and just as importantly we knew he’d wear us down by seemingly always punting better than anybody else we faced all season. (And even if it was only “seemingly,” it still mattered.)  At the time, in my opinion, he was in a class by himself, if only how he’d get in your head before the game even started. He’s in my Hall of Fame.

—John, Aspen, Colo.

Thanks for writing. Your comments about Guy echo what so many feel, and that’s why he was nominated as a candidate for the Hall. He will get a very fair airing by the full committee.

HE CHANGED THE GAME

You ask, ‘Is punting really a different game between 1973, when Guy entered football, and today?’ … Guy was the first one to bring the new era of punting to the NFL. As to your comparison between him and Jerrel Wilson, who I also loved watching, why can't both of them be in the Hall? Is there only one quarterback in the Hall? Finally, assume for a minute that none of the quarterbacks prior to the current passing era were in the Hall of Fame. How many of the QBs since then have better stats than the earlier passers? Eighty-two?

—D.E.

The point about punting is that the ball is the same (maybe ever harder to punt today, because the NFL makes punters use non-broken-in balls during games now) and the distance behind center is the same, and none of the rules about punting have changed in any major way. Regarding passing, in 1973, when Guy broke into the NFL, 58 percent of the plays in an average game were running plays. In 2012 it was a 58-percent passing league. That’s not a little change. It’s a revolution.

REMEMBER SAMMY BAUGH

The oft-repeated stat that there are no punters in the Hall is a fallacy. The fact that Sammy Baugh is the greatest quarterback of all time (in the opinion of this humble if biased Washington fan) overshadows but does not invalidate the fact that he was one of the greatest punters in history, as well as being a damn good safety. Punters in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have to be viewed in the same light as designated hitters and middle relievers in baseball. No one is denying their importance to the game. But there is too much of a sameness to what they do for anyone to have a career that stands out enough to warrant enshrinement.

—Andrew, Richmond, Va.

Those are good points, Andrew. I think a punter or a kicker really has to stand out in some way to be Hall-worthy. Adam Vinatieri, for instance, for all his clutch kicks in New England. It’ll be a good debate in the coming years for Hall of Fame voters.

JORGE WANTS FOOTBALL IN MEXICO

I do not understand why the NFL is so insistent upon going to London and not a town with a bigger market or bigger potential. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, the Azteca Stadium is one of the largest stadiums in the world, and yet the NFL has not played a regular-season game in Mexico since 2005. Not only is Mexico a bigger market with a bigger venue, but it has more potential than England ever will. Mexico is twice as big as England (112 million to 53 million). Mexico is an emerging market, meaning the economic potential is far from being reached. Most importantly, Mexico only has one sport, soccer, while England, has many sports—rugby, cricket, tennis and soccer. This basically means that if the NFL can tap into the Mexican market it will only have to compete with one sport, while having more potential and more customers than it will in England. Please enlighten us with your opinion on why the NFL is so insistent on London.

—Jorge

Great question. I think some of it has to do with the fact that the NFL views London as the gateway to Europe, and someday there will be more than one franchise there. (Someday, probably, long after you and I are gone.) But I agree with you—there is significantly more passion for the NFL game in Mexico than in England, and I would look harder at it if I were the NFL. Shorter road trips too.

SAM IS A BOLD PROGNOSTICATOR

Before I see your chalk picks, I'd like to go on record for seeing the writing on the wall in the AFC. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (my guys) and New England will combine for no more than 25 wins and one playoff spot. They all have glaring weaknesses and ride on past laurels. I'm not a gambler, but I feel good about the proposition. Houston or Denver will emerge from the AFC to be the patsy in this year's Super Bowl.

--Sam

Thanks, Sam, and for the record, I’d be surprised if my picks are much better than yours.

GOOD IDEA, DARRYL

Just love The MMQB. Great info. You guys should be very proud of your work. A suggestion maybe once a week or month: a Where Are They Now section. Love to know where some old players are now and what they are doing, like Sherman Plunkett, the old tackle with the jets; Otis Taylor or Mo Moorman of the Chiefs. That would be a wonderful addition to an already great site.

—Darryl

That’ll go in the ideas hopper, Darryl. Thanks. It’s a good one.

THE LAURA KING EMAIL OF THE WEEK

I can't believe your daughter Laura is turning 30. When I first started reading MMQB you were including snippets about her high school field hockey and softball exploits. Man, I feel old! Do you think the Titans can sneak into the playoffs this year?

--Dave, Nashville

Laura is just lucky she survived 30 years of Peter King parenting. Thanks for remembering that ninth shootout (or whatever it was) Montclair field hockey playoff game against Livingston. I like Tennessee’s approach, going against the grain with re-emphasis on the run, which they will do well. I think if Jake Locker can be consistent—not spectacular, but simply consistent, and relatively mistake-free—the Titans can sneak in. But I didn’t pick them to make the playoffs.

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