Toe Awards 1921-2017

Named in honor of Lou “the Toe” Groza, the Toe Award is reserved for the league’s most outstanding kicker each year. This is the award for which I think heavy use of statistic is most critical for building the foundation of your rankings. Obviously you can’t just look at field goal percentage and call it a day, as not all kicks have equal difficulty. With available statistics and through use of game footage, I have been able to do a decent job identifying the degree of difficulty each kicker has faced, at least dating back to the mid 1940s. Prior to that, everything is based on the numbers, with stadium weather history to serve as a guide. My primary criteria for the award are being great at field goals and being great at extra points. When I can, I also take into account a kicker’s ability to deliver successful kickoffs. Extra stuff like trick plays have some small consideration, but things like Groza playing tackle or Waterfield playing quarterback and safety are not taken into account at all. Those have nothing to do with their kicking.

Toe Award Winners

The table below lists every Toe Award winner since 1921. Read it thus: In 1921, playing in the NFL (technically the APFA, but the NFL in spirit), Elmer Oliphant of the Buffalo All-Americans won his first Toe Award.

1921NFLElmer OliphantBuffalo All-Americans1
1922NFLPaddy DriscollChicago Cardinals1
1923NFLPete HenryCanton Bulldogs1
1924NFLJoey SternamanChicago Bears1
1925NFLPaddy DriscollChicago Cardinals2
1926NFLPaddy DriscollChicago Bears3
1927NFLKen MercerFrankford Yellow Jackets1
1928NFLHarry O'BoyleGreen Bay Packers1
1929NFLRed DunnGreen Bay Packers1
1930NFLFrosty PetersPortsmouth Spartans/Providence Steam Roller1
1931NFLErnie NeversChicago Cardinals1
1932NFLDutch ClarkPortsmouth Spartans1
1933NFLJack MandersChicago Bears1
1934NFLJack MandersChicago Bears2
1935NFLArmand NiccolaiPittsburgh Pirates1
1936NFLJack MandersChicago Bears3
1937NFLJack MandersChicago Bears4
1938NFLWard CuffNew York Giants1
1939NFLTiny EngebretsenGreen Bay Packers1
1940NFLClarke HinkleGreen Bay Packers1
1941NFLBill DaddioChicago Cardinals1
1942NFLFrank MaznickiChicago Bears1
1943NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers1
1944NFLKen StrongNew York Giants1
1945NFLJoe AguirreWashington1
1946NFLBob WaterfieldLos Angeles Rams1
1946AAFCSteve NemethChicago Rockets1
1947NFLPat HarderChicago Cardinals1
1947AAFCBen AgajanianLos Angeles Dons1
1948NFLCliff PattonPhiladelphia Eagles1
1948AAFCRex GrossmanBaltimore Colts1
1949NFLBen AgajanianNew York Giants2
1949AAFCRex GrossmanBaltimore Colts2
1950NFLLou GrozaCleveland Browns1
1951NFLRay PooleNew York Giants1
1952NFLLou GrozaCleveland Browns2
1953NFLLou GrozaCleveland Browns3
1954NFLLou GrozaCleveland Browns4
1955NFLFred ConeGreen Bay Packers1
1956NFLSam BakerWashington1
1957NFLLou GrozaCleveland Browns5
1958NFLPaige CothrenLos Angeles Rams1
1959NFLPat SummerallNew York Giants1
1960NFLBob KhayatWashington1
1960AFLBen AgajanianLos Angeles Chargers3
1961NFLSteve MyhraBaltimore Colts1
1961AFLGeorge BlandaHouston Oilers1
1962NFLDon ChandlerNew York Giants1
1962AFLGene MingoDenver Broncos1
1963NFLDon ChandlerNew York Giants2
1963AFLGino CappellettiBoston Patriots1
1964NFLJim BakkenSt. Louis Cardinals1
1964AFLGino CappellettiBoston Patriots2
1965NFLFred CoxMinnesota Vikings1
1965AFLPete GogolakBuffalo Bills1
1966NFLSam BakerPhiladelphia Eagles2
1966AFLMike MercerKansas City Chiefs/Oakland Raiders1
1967NFLJim BakkenSt. Louis Cardinals2
1967AFLJan StenerudKansas City Chiefs1
1968NFLMac PercivalChicago Bears1
1968AFLJan StenerudKansas City Chiefs2
1969NFLFred CoxMinnesota Vikings2
1969AFLJan StenerudKansas City Chiefs3
1970NFLGaro YepremianMiami Dolphins1
1971NFLGaro YepremianMiami Dolphins2
1972NFLChester MarcolGreen Bay Packers1
1973NFLBruce GossettLos Angeles Rams1
1974NFLErrol MannDetroit Lions1
1975NFLTom DempseyLos Angeles Rams1
1976NFLRich SzaroNew Orleans Saints1
1977NFLRolf BenirschkeSan Diego Chargers1
1978NFLGaro YepremianMiami Dolphins3
1979NFLMark MoseleyWashington1
1980NFLFred SteinfortDenver Broncos1
1981NFLJan StenerudGreen Bay Packers4
1982NFLMark MoseleyWashington2
1983NFLRaul AllegreBaltimore Colts1
1984NFLPaul McFaddenPhiladelphia Eagles1
1985NFLMorten AndersenNew Orleans Saints1
1986NFLMorten AndersenNew Orleans Saints2
1987NFLDean BiasucciIndianapolis Colts1
1988NFLNick LoweryKansas City Chiefs1
1989NFLEddie MurrayDetroit Lions1
1990NFLNick LoweryKansas City Chiefs2
1991NFLPete StoyanovichMiami Dolphins1
1992NFLMorten AndersenNew Orleans Saints3
1993NFLNorm JohnsonAtlanta Falcons1
1994NFLJohn CarneySan Diego Chargers1
1995NFLAl Del GrecoHouston Oilers1
1996NFLCary BlanchardIndianapolis Colts1
1997NFLPete StoyanovichKansas City Chiefs2
1998NFLGary AndersonMinnesota Vikings1
1999NFLJason HansonDetroit Lions1
2000NFLRyan LongwellGreen Bay Packers1
2001NFLJason ElamDenver Broncos1
2002NFLAdam VinatieriNew England Patriots1
2003NFLMike VanderjagtIndianapolis Colts1
2004NFLAdam VinatieriNew England Patriots2
2005NFLNeil RackersArizona Cardinals1
2006NFLJohn KasayCarolina Panthers1
2007NFLRob BironasTennessee Titans1
2008NFLJason HansonDetroit Lions2
2009NFLSebastian JanikowskiOakland Raiders1
2010NFLRob BironasTennessee Titans2
2011NFLSebastian JanikowskiOakland Raiders2
2012NFLBlair WalshMinnesota Vikings1
2013NFLJustin TuckerBaltimore Ravens1
2014NFLStephen GostkowskiNew England Patriots1
2015NFLDan BaileyDallas Cowboys1
2016NFLJustin TuckerBaltimore Ravens2
2017NFLJustin TuckerBaltimore Ravens3

Some thoughts.

Lou Groza‘s numbers look atrocious from a modern standpoint, but relative to the kickers of his era, he was by far the most dominant kicker ever to play the game. Fittingly, he is the only man with five wins.

Jack Manders was also much better than his peers, though it must be noted that his peers were much, much worse than even Groza’s peers. Jan Stenerud was the first pure kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and rightly so. He took soccer style to a new level, and his success was fundamental to helping eschew toe kicks.

The same can be said of Paddy Driscoll that was said of Manders. It was a completely different game then, and he happened to be the best kicker among a group of men who had to play offense, defense, and special teams.

Ben Agajanian isn’t a household name. He bounced around the league, playing for nine teams in his strange career. He won an award for three different teams, in three different leagues. Garo Yepremian may be a household name, but not for his kicking. Despite being remembered for his worst moment, he was actually a consistent and dependable kicker for a long time.

Justin Tucker already has three Toe Awards to his name, and he has plenty of time to add to the list. Morten Andersen was the second kicker enshrined in Canton, and he had a remarkable career booming kicks from distance till he was nearly fifty years old.

Adam Vinatieri will probably become the third pure kicker with a gold jacket and bronze bust. Nick Lowery may be the most consistently excellent kicker in the modern NFL. Why aren’t they featured more? Well, Vinatieri is known for his playoff heroics more than his career body of work. To me, it speaks volumes about his ability that he actually has two awards to supplement his legacy of clutchness. Lowery suffers from a slow and steady wins the race type of career. He was always above average, but he had few absolutely dominant years.