TD Awards 1960-2017

The TD Award is named in honor of 49ers great Tommy Davis and goes to the top punter in the league each season. People have vastly different opinions on what makes a great punter. Historically, people would just look at gross punting average and call it a day. It became popular to say Sammy Baugh was the great of all time, ignoring the fact that he frequently punted on third down to a defense with no returner to stop the ball from rolling and augmenting his average. Eventually, net average became more popular, as it better accounts for a punter’s ability to limit returns or give his coverage team time to make a play if there is a return. Personally, I try to take a holistic view of a punter’s statistical profile. What are his gross and net averages, and what is the difference between the two? Where available, what was the hangtime on his punts? What is his ratio of kicks inside the 20 (or, even better, inside the 10) to touchbacks?1 Has he failed to recognize the rush and given up an inordinate number of blocks? How often does he force a fair catch versus allowing a return? More recently, what is his punting EPA relative to what we might expect from an average punter punting from the same location? Deep kicks tend to add higher EPA, so punters who often kick deep have inflated EPA. The results look a little different after accounting for field position. We have increasingly granular information as we progress technologically. That means, looking backward, we don’t have a lot to work with. For this reason, and because finding enough footage of punters to give me a complete look at their performance was not possible,2 I cut off the award at 1960.3

TD Award Winners

The table below contains every TD Award winner since 1960. Read it thus: In 1960, playing in the NFL, Tommy Davis of the 49ers won his first TD Award.

YearLeaguePTeam#
1960NFLTommy DavisSan Francisco 49ers1
1960AFLPaul MaguireLos Angeles Chargers1
1961NFLTommy DavisSan Francisco 49ers2
1961AFLCurley JohnsonNew York Titans1
1962NFLTommy DavisSan Francisco 49ers3
1962AFLPaul MaguireSan Diego Chargers2
1963NFLSam BakerDallas Cowboys1
1963AFLJim FraserDenver Broncos1
1964NFLBobby WaldenMinnesota Vikings1
1964AFLPaul MaguireBuffalo Bills3
1965NFLTommy DavisSan Francisco 49ers4
1965AFLJerrel WilsonKansas City Chiefs1
1966NFLDavid LeeBaltimore Colts1
1966AFLCurley JohnsonNew York Jets2
1967NFLBobby Joe GreenChicago Bears1
1967AFLMike EischeidOakland Raiders1
1968NFLPat StudstillLos Angeles Rams1
1968AFLJerrel WilsonKansas City Chiefs2
1969NFLDavid LeeBaltimore Colts2
1969AFLDennis ParteeSan Diego Chargers1
1970NFLJulian FaganNew Orleans Saints1
1971NFLRon WidbyDallas Cowboys1
1972NFLJerrel WilsonKansas City Chiefs3
1973NFLJerrel WilsonKansas City Chiefs4
1974NFLRay GuyOakland Raiders1
1975NFLRay GuyOakland Raiders2
1976NFLJohn JamesAtlanta Falcons1
1977NFLMike BraggWashington1
1978NFLRay GuyOakland Raiders3
1979NFLBob GruppKansas City Chiefs1
1980NFLRay GuyOakland Raiders4
1981NFLTom SkladanyDetroit Lions1
1982NFLLuke PrestridgeDenver Broncos1
1983NFLReggie RobyMiami Dolphins1
1984NFLReggie RobyMiami Dolphins2
1985NFLDale HatcherLos Angeles Rams1
1986NFLSean LandetaNew York Giants1
1987NFLJim ArnoldDetroit Lions1
1988NFLMike HoranDenver Broncos1
1989NFLSean LandetaNew York Giants2
1990NFLRohn StarkIndianapolis Colts1
1991NFLJeff GossettLos Angeles Raiders1
1992NFLRich CamarilloPhoenix Cardinals1
1993NFLChris GardockiChicago Bears1
1994NFLRick TutenSeattle Seahawks1
1995NFLLee JohnsonCincinnati Bengals1
1996NFLChris GardockiIndianapolis Colts2
1997NFLLeo AraguzOakland Raiders1
1998NFLMatt TurkWashington1
1999NFLDarren BennettSan Diego Chargers1
2000NFLDan StryzinskiAtlanta Falcons1
2001NFLTodd SauerbrunCarolina Panthers1
2002NFLChris MohrAtlanta Falcons1
2003NFLMitch BergerNew Orleans Saints1
2004NFLMike ScifresSan Diego Chargers1
2005NFLMitch BergerNew Orleans Saints2
2006NFLMike ScifresSan Diego Chargers2
2007NFLMike ScifresSan Diego Chargers3
2008NFLSam KochBaltimore Ravens1
2009NFLBen GrahamArizona Cardinals1
2010NFLSteve WeatherfordNew York Jets1
2011NFLAndy LeeAndy Lee1
2012NFLThomas MorsteadNew Orleans Saints1
2013NFLMike ScifresSan Diego Chargers4
2014NFLSam KochBaltimore Ravens2
2015NFLJohnny HekkerSt. Louis Rams1
2016NFLJohnny HekkerLos Angeles Rams2
2017NFLJohnny HekkerLos Angeles Rams3

Davis won four awards kicking in the harsh winds of Kezer Stadium. He could boom punts with the best of them, but he really stood out as a guy who could place the ball with uncanny accuracy, especially relative to his contemporaries.

Raiders legend Ray Guy is the only pure punter in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His sky high kicks inspired people to begin tracking hangtime for punters. Both his coaches and his teammates credit him for playing a significant role in their defense’s ability to limit points.

Before Guy came along, Kansas City’s Jerrel Wilson was the reigning greatest punter in the game. Nicknamed Thunderfoot, his ability to boot the ball high and far was unparalleled at the time and rivaled that of the more popular Raider.

Mike Scifres never made a Pro Bowl in his career, and he certainly never made an all pro team. However, he possessed rare accuracy and frequently put Chargers opponents in tough situations deep in their own territory. When he had down years, he was utterly terrible, but when he was on, he was all the way on.

When it’s all said and done, Johnny Hekker may go down as the best punter in history. Maybe not necessarily the greatest, given the importance of both influence and achievement, but certainly the best. he already has three TD Awards under his belt, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. He combines the deep ball power of Guy with the accuracy of Scifres, and his ability to contribute on trick plays is a great bonus that only adds to his value as a player.

 

  1. Punters themselves have stated they have little control over whether a ball that lands in the 5 yard line goes into the endzone or pins an opponent deep. My response is that they should adjust their aim accordingly in order to maximize the favorable outcomes from the things they can control.
  2. Whereas I have fairly ample tape of offense and defense back to the mid 1940s, I have found that many of the very old games I have watched don’t even contain special teams plays. It’s as if the people recording them weren’t interested. I don’t get it.
  3. The man this impacts the most is Horace Gillom, the great Browns punter who surely would have picked up a few awards had I extended the award back to his prime.