Special teams are a forgotten element of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Only three pure special teamers have been enshrined, two placekickers and one punter. The Hall opened in 1963 and a year later the first soccer-style kicker (Pete Gogolak) arrived in pro football. It still took 29 years to enshrine the first placekicker – Jan Stenerud in 1991 – and 26 more years before the Hall deemed another kicker (Morten Andersen) worthy of induction.
Ray Guy was selected the punter on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. He became eligible for the Hall in 1992 but had to wait until 2014 – his 23rd year of eligibility – before the Hall deemed him worthy of a bust. No other punter has ever reached the finals.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson as selected the return specialist on the 75th anniversary team. He’s been eligible for 19 years without ever reaching the finals for discussion. Brian Mitchell returned more kicks and punts for more yards than any player in NFL history. He’s now in his 13th year of eligibility but his candidacy has never picked up any steam.
Rarely has a kicker ever been considered the best player on his own team. But there was one season in NFL history when a kicker was considered the best player in the entire league. That was 1982 when Mark Moseley was selected the league MVP for Super Bowl champion Washington, then known as the Redskins.
Keep in mind that Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Walter Payton, Kellen Winslow, Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Dan Fouts, Jack Lambert, Tony Dorsett and Ted Hendricks were all active that season. Yet Moseley was voted the most valuable player in the league. Those other 10 players are now in the Hall of Fame. Moseley has never been discussed as a candidate.
The best player in the NFL in any given season deserves that discussion.
It’s not like Moseley was a one-hit wonder. He kicked in the NFL for 16 seasons and is Washington’s all-time leading scorer with 1,207 points. His MVP award came in a strike-shortened season. Only nine games were played that year. But Moseley was even better the following season when he kicked a career-best 33 field goals and led the NFL in scoring with 161 points in 1983.
But his 1982 season was special. He converted 20 of his 21 field-goal tries –and his only miss came on his final field goal try of the regular season against the St. Louis Cardinals. And that attempt was meaningless as Washington won in a romp, 28-0.
But when his kicks had meaning, Moseley was money. He kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime to lift Washington past Philadelphia, 37-34, in the season opener. He kicked four field goals for all Washington's points in a 12-7 victory over St. Louis and a week later kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals in a 15-14 triumph over the New York Giants. He also had three field goals in a 21-13 victory over Tampa Bay.
Any Hall of Fame discussion for Moseley would also feature the final page of a history book. Moseley was the NFL’s last straight-on kicker – the last to kick a football with his toe and not his instep. And for his final four seasons, he was the only straight-on kicker in the NFL.
Washington moved on from Moseley to its own soccer-style kicker, Max Zendejas, midway through the 1986 season. So Moseley played the last four games of his career that season with the Cleveland Browns, collecting the final 31 of his 1,382 career points.
Moseley ranks 33rd on the NFL’s all-time scoring list. All of the players ahead of him are kickers and 29 of them were soccer-style. Only three straight-on kickers are ahead of him – and two of them are in the Hall of Fame largely because of what they did when they weren’t kicking the football – George Blanda and Lou "The Toe" Groza.
Blanda ranks seventh all-time on the scoring list with 2.002 points. But his primary job was quarterback for the Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders. He kicked the football 1,598 times in his career but threw it 4,007 times. Groza ranks 21st on the all-time scoring list with 1,608 points for the Cleveland Browns. But he was voted to the 1950s NFL all-decade team as an offensive tackle.
The only other straight-on kicker ahead of Moseley on the scoring list is Jim Turner, who ranks 28th with 1,439 points. He played 16 seasons with the New York Jets in the AFL era and Denver Broncos in the NFL era. Like Moseley, his career deserves discussion from Canton. But Moseley’s MVP trophy should make it especially difficult for the Hall of Fame to ignore.