New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a man of few words. Unless he is asked about special teams.
Belichick once delivered a 1,039-word answer during a news conference about punt formations, specialization of long-snappers and the inconsistency of turf. His special teams units are regularly among the best in the league, and the Patriots employ the one player widely known as a special teams ace, Matthew Slater.
Let it be known that when Belichick talks about special teams, he puts a lot of thought into it. So when Belichick called Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker “the best kicker in the history of the league” on Friday, that carries a lot of weight.
Belichick will have a chance to face this newly knighted GOAT soon when the Pats and Ravens meet on “Sunday Night Football.” And the comparison will be even starker with injuries forcing New England to turn to Nick Folk, who last appeared in 2017 when he was cut after going 6-for-11 on field goal attempts.
Sadly, Belichick did not give another lengthy soliloquy on special teams, he did heap high praise on Tucker.
“We were fortunate enough to block one against him the last time we played him, but it’s not easy,” Belichick said. “He’s tough. He’s a good player — good athlete, good placekicker and a good kickoff man.”
Is Tucker the greatest kicker of all time?
If Belichick’s word isn’t enough proof that Tucker is the league’s best kicker, he has a good statistical case: Tucker is the only qualified kicker in the sport’s history to connect on more than 90 percent of his field goals.
And it’s not just that Tucker is No. 1, he’s No. 1 by a long shot. The distance between him (90.681 percent) and second-place Josh Lambo (88.095 percent) is the same as the distance between Lambo and No. 14-ranked Shayne Graham.
Tucker is perfect on his 16 attempts this season and has twice led the league in field goals made. He has only missed one extra point in 262 attempts and has connected on 70.9 percent of his field goals from 50 yards and deeper, while the rest of the league has made just 62.4 percent since he entered the league in 2012.
What about those other Patriots kickers?
Belichick’s words may not have shaken the boat too much, except for the fact that he has coached two other players who have a solid case to be the best of all-time: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski.
Vinatieri made two of his three All-Pro teams with the Patriots and is well-known for his iconic kicks that brought them their first three Super Bowls. He set the record for most career field goals last season and continues to kick reasonably well into his age-47 season.
Gostkowski is third all-time in kicking accuracy (87.4 percent) and already 14th all-time in field goals made, despite only being 35. Belichick is probably right to say that Tucker is a step above his kickers, but that’s still got to hurt to hear for those two.
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