Jason Hanson: 'Come to grips with kicking'

In the days since place-kicker Jason Hanson announced his retirement from the Detroit Lions, I've received a steady stream of the same question: Will he be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Hanson, after all, finished his 21-year career with the third-most points (2,150) in NFL history. But I've largely brushed aside this issue by noting the obvious fact: Hall of Fame voters have almost entirely ignored specialists in their annual elections. Only one place-kicker (Jan Stenerud) has been enshrined, and punters have been shut out.

The topic arose during Hanson's retirement news conference Tuesday, one in which the Lions announced they would place him in their Ring of Honor. Hanson said he wasn't prepared to discuss his own candidacy, but spoke eloquently about the unique value of kicking in the game.

"I still believe to this day," Hanson said, "that media, a little bit, and fans and those who know the game still don't know quite what to do with kicking, and still don't quite know how to evaluate what makes one kicker better than another. I think it's a difficult thing. I understand that a little bit, but I think that the NFL -- let's just say as a blanket statement -- needs to come to grips with [it].

"I didn't invent the game, [but] we're part of it, and it's a big deal, what guys have done. Give them a separate wing in the Hall of Fame. But I don't know how you can ignore it. I was in it. I felt the pressure. I felt the intensity and the consequences of making and missing. It's something special. It's something unique to all of sports, and I think the guys who have done it well should be recognized. Where I fit in that equation, I don't know, and I'm not going to worry about, because it's not mine to worry about. But I definitely think the NFL has got to come to grips with kicking."

I'm not a member of the selection committee, but I would presume the primary argument regarding specialists is that they aren't full-time players in terms of snaps. On a good day, Hanson might have been on the field for perhaps 10-15 special teams plays.

Of course, a place-kicker can directly and disproportionately impact the outcome of a game in those 10-15 plays. Then there is the under-discussed value of field position for those who are also good at kickoffs, a skill Hanson said he hoped to be remembered for. Perhaps the encroachment of advanced statistics will provide new and easily digestible ways to evaluate kickers, one that will eventually elevate and honor some of the highest achievers in the role.

Should Hanson be in that group? That would be another discussion entirely, one that must include his annual advantage of kicking indoors at home. But first things first. An analysis of Hanson's candidacy is moot until the historic perception of his position changes.