Thursday, January 28, 2010
By the decade: NFC West punters
By Mike Sando
The 49ers' Andy Lee stood out as the best NFC West punter for the first decade of the 2000s.
Lee had more punts than any other NFC West punter during the decade. He put up good numbers despite working in windy conditions at Candlestick Park. And with two Pro Bowls on his résumé, Lee was an easy choice.
I narrowed the field of candidates by looking only at punters who spent at least three seasons with division teams during the decade.
Jeff Feagles, the Seahawks' punter from 1999 through 2002, ranked second even though his gross and net averages lagged relative to others on the list.
The most effective punters aren't always the ones with the best yardage-based averages. They succeed in tough conditions and flourish indoors. They dictate field position in crucial situations. They minimize returns.
Feagles was the best directional punter I've seen. His stats for percentage of punts returned, punts downed inside the 20 and touchback percentage closed the gap with those on the list boasting superior yardage-based averages.
The Rams' Donnie Jones is an excellent punter worthy of consideration. The fact that he plays home games indoors affects how others view him. I think that partially explains why Jones hasn't been to a Pro Bowl yet.
Note that stats in the chart reflect contributions made only while playing for NFC West teams from 2000 to 2009. More all-decade stuff here.