NFC North: Kevin Butler

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould disagrees with the NFL’s decision to move extra-point attempts back to the 20-yard line in the first weeks of the 2014 preseason.

Last week at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. league owners agreed to a two-game experiment in the first two weeks of the preseason to increase the distance of extra points to the equivalent of a 38-yard field. The league will consider a proposal to permanently push all extra-points back to the 25-yard line at a later date.

[+] EnlargeRobbie Gould
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBears kicker Robbie Gould thinks moving extra points back increases the possibility of injury.
The extra point is currently snapped from the two-yard line and is the equivalent of a 20-yard field goal.

“I’m not in favor of the extra point being moved back to the 20-yard line, Gould said Tuesday. “First of all, there are a lot of safety issues. The NFL changed the rules based on people coming off the edge really hard to dive at a kicker’s leg. You’ve moved a guy off the center to protect his spine and I think that’s a fantastic idea. Moving the extra point back to the 20-yard line, that essentially gives every single person now a green light to rush. That means it puts every blocker at risk because there is no risk of a fake.”

Gould, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, feels the NFL is penalizing kickers for being successful. Gould connected on 45-of-46 extra point attempts last season, and is 323-of-325 (99.4 percent) over his nine-year Bears’ career. He signed a four-year contract extension in late-December worth $17,930,425 with $8.85 million in guarantees.

“Because Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and these guys have become so good at passing the football and going over 5,000 yards per season, are you going to get rid of play action passing?” Gould said. “A linebacker or a defense is so good at blitzing, are you going to get rid of that? No, you’re going to embrace it. The NFL has made our position become so good because the competition is so thick, if you fail to perform; they’ll cut you right away and get somebody else regardless of your salary because kicker’s salaries usually don’t mean a ton in regards to the salary cap.

Instead of embracing how good the position has become like they for other positions, they’re actually trying to diminish what that position has become and completely overhaul it.”

The former All-Pro kicker is also concerned about how lengthening the distance of extra points will affect the legacies of NFL kickers. Gould is the Bears all-time leader in 100-plus point seasons (seven) and single-season field goal percentage (26-of-29, 89.7 percent in 2008 and 2013), while ranking second behind Kevin Butler in points (1,025), field goals made (234) and extra points (323).

“How can you compare kickers?” Gould said. “How are you going to compare Kevin Butler to Bob Thomas? How are you going to compare Bob Thomas versus Robbie Gould? Or Morten Andersen versus Robbie Gould? If these rules changes become permanent you’ll never be able to compare kickers like you do quarterbacks because it’s never going to be the same anymore. It changes the entire integrity of the game.”

However, Gould believes the NFL was correct when the league owners voted to lengthen the height of the goal posts from 30 to 35 feet.

“Now, the new rules change in regards the uprights is an awesome, awesome rule,” Gould said. "If I told you to lie down and I threw a ball across your face and told you to tell me when you see it, realistically, you’re probably not going to see it. Same thing with the officials with where the NFL has them stand.

So what they’re going to do is take the official out of the play and remove all doubt. I love it. You’re going to know for sure if a kicker made it because the uprights are going to be long enough where most kickers are not going to be able to kick the ball over the uprights, especially when you’re talking about mid-range to longer field goals.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- There used to be a theory floating around that Bears kicker Robbie Gould lacked the necessary leg strength to connect on field goals of 50-plus yards. The truth of the matter is that former Bears head coach Lovie Smith simply preferred to play the field position game and turn his powerful defense loose on opponents pinned deep inside their own territory, rather than let Gould kick the ball from 50-yards out.

Gould
Gould
Gould was given the opportunity to try just two kicks from 50-plus yards (0-for-2) from 2005-2008, but in the last four-plus seasons he’s made 14-of-16 from that distance, including 10 straight dating back to December, 2010.

The former All-Pro, who looks to be completely recovered from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured semitendinosus tendon that forced him to miss the final three games of last year, nailed a 58-yard field goal in the Bears’ 24-21 Week 1 victory over the Bengals -- the longest field goal in franchise history and the most prodigious kick ever made by an NFL kicker in the city of Chicago.

“It’s pretty cool when you get a chance to make a play and help your team out,” Gould said. “The record means a lot because it’s obviously a big year for me. I’m pretty excited about how hard I worked to get back to where I am. To get a chance to go out there in the first week and to have the coaching staff show that kind of confidence in me to hit it is pretty special.”

The fourth-most accurate kicker in league history, Gould is the Bears’ second all-time leading scorer with 908 points, trailing only former kicker Kevin Butler (1,116). If Gould continues to play for the Bears beyond the 2013 season (his contract is set to expire after the year) he would likely hold all of the Bears’ kicking and scoring records before the end of his career.

“My goal is to try and be as consistent as I can every single day of the week,” Gould said. Whatever is going to happens is going to happen. If I leave here with a legacy that’s a pretty high standard for the next guy that comes in here whenever my career is over – that’s kind of my goal. Obviously, I want to stay here forever. I want to have some fun doing it and hopefully help them along the way.”
Stumbled onto an NFL Network production Monday night of the 1994 classic between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, one that ended in 33-27 Vikings victory. Cris Carter's 65-yard touchdown reception from Warren Moon won it for Minnesota in overtime.

A couple of things stuck out to me, including the fact that it was the Vikings' third overtime game of the season and the Bears' second. That's a lot. The teams would also meet exactly one month later in the playoffs, a 35-18 victory for the Bears.

Above all else, I thought it was cool to look back and see players of various eras on the field at the same time -- all while realizing the game was played an unbelievable 16 years ago. I always associate Bears place-kicker Kevin Butler with the 1985 team, but he was still with them nine years later. Meanwhile, we saw two key players on the Vikings' 1998 team -- Carter and fellow receiver Jake Reed -- preview their significant roles four years before the Vikings' offense would set NFL records.

Here's the box score from the game, courtesy Pro-Football Reference.

Continuing around the NFC North, circa 2010:

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Note to self: Special teams aren't a hot topic in February.

Our request for your input on the top kickers and punters in the history of each NFC North team was met mostly with the sweet music of crickets chirping at sundown. That's OK. We all get knocked on our keisters a few times.

So I'll take the liberty of breaking all ties and hereby present to you, once and for all, our choices for this most critical status:

CHICAGO BEARS

Kicker: Kevin Butler
Comment: A few more years with an 86-percent conversion rate will lift Robbie Gould into the top spot.
Punter: Brad Maynard
Comment: No one in Bears history has been better at spotting the ball inside the 20-yard line.

DETROIT LIONS

Kicker: Jason Hanson
Comment: He's probably the best kicker in the history of the NFC North/Central. Hanson's career percentage of 82.2 also bests Eddie Murray (75.1).
Punter: Yale Lary
Comment: Lary averaged 44.3 gross yards on 503 career punts.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Kicker: Ryan Longwell
Comment: Longwell holds most franchise records for field goals. A few respondents also mentioned Chester Marcol, who converted 79 field goals from 1972-74.
Punter: Craig Hentrich
Comment: Hentrich had a team-best 42.8 career gross average.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Kicker: Fred Cox
Comment: Cox's 455 career field goals is almost 300 more than the next player.
Punter: Greg Coleman
Comment: Coleman dropped 154 punts inside the 20-yard line over 10 seasons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

My AFC East colleague, Tim Graham, has a post detailing the recent formation of the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame -- which exists primarily because only one kicker has been inducted into the more widely-known Pro Football Hall of Fame.

(It's Jan Stenerud, for those who didn't immediately guess.)

We're in early February and there are than two weeks before the next event on the NFL calendar (combine, baby!). So Tim's post got us to thinking: How many kickers and punters from the NFC North would be deserving of induction into the Kicking Hall of Fame?

The best way to identify possibilities is to answer this question: Who is the best punter and kicker in the history of each NFC North team?

I've gone through each team's histories and culled 12 nominations, two for each position on each team. But as many of you have pointed out, I'm still working to perfect my expertise in some corners of the NFC North. So I'd like your help.

 
  Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
  Ryan Longwell, now with the Vikings, holds most Packers records for field goals.

Did I miss anyone? Are any of these names out of place? And who would you pick?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below or in the mailbag. I'll come back later this week with the all-time NFC North kickers and punters team.

Kind of has a nice ring to it, huh?

CHICAGO BEARS

Kickers: Kevin Butler or Robbie Gould
Comment: Butler had 243 career field goals, over a 100 more than the next kicker on the list. Gould's career conversion percentage of 85.9 is by far the best in Bears history.
Punters: Bob Parsons or Brad Maynard
Comment: Maynard ranks second all-time with a 42.3 gross average and first with 194 punts downed inside the 20. Parsons ranked second with 158 inside the 20.

DETROIT LIONS

Kickers: Jason Hanson or Eddie Murray
Comment: Hanson is the Lions' all-time leading scorer, and his 385 career field goals is 141 more than Murray. Hanson's career percentage of 82.2 also bests Murray (75.1).
Punters: Yale Lary or John Jett
Comment: Lary's career gross average of 44.3 yards on 503 punts is amazing. Jett dropped 154 punts inside the 20.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Kickers: Ryan Longwell or Chris Jacke
Comment: Longwell holds most franchise records for field goals. Jacke is a close second.
Punters: Craig Hentrich or Max McGee
Comment: Hentrich had a team-best 42.8 career gross average. McGee averaged 41.6 yards over 11 seasons while also playing receiver.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Kickers: Fred Cox or Gary Anderson
Comment: Cox's 455 career field goals is almost 300 more than the next player. Anderson had a perfect 35-for-35 season in 1998.
Punters: Greg Coleman or Chris Kluwe
Comment: Coleman dropped 154 punts inside the 20-yard line over 10 seasons. Kluwe has the best career gross average (44.8) in team history.

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