Analysis Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: Is Harrison Butker the greatest Chiefs kicker of all time?

Sunday’s performance by the Chiefs kicker was amazing, but does it make him the best kicker that the Chiefs have ever had? There is a long list of Chiefs kickers in the past, but was there anyone better?

Down three points late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Chiefs turned to kicker Harrison Butker to take them into overtime. Butker booted a 30-yard field goal with ease to keep the game going for an extra quarter.

That kick was nothing compared to what he had already done earlier in the third quarter. After falling to a 3rd and 25 and only picking up 10 yards on the play, the Chiefs were faced with a tough decision. The score was 17-6 and they needed points to keep the game within one score. Andy Reid sent Butker in for a 58-yard attempt and he kicked it through. The kick tied former Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery for the longest field goal in franchise history.

After a defensive stance in overtime, the Chiefs needed another big kick from the four-year veteran. However, that one kick turned out to be three. Originally the overtime kick was going to be a 53-yarder, which he made. A false start penalty would take away the kick and back the Chiefs up another five yards. It would be another one from 58 yards and once again, he punched it through. This time the kick would be wiped away by a Chargers timeout. He was going to have to kick it again. He did, and it was good, and this time it counted.

“I think I just got a little bit more angry every kick,” Butker said after the game. “So the first one, I thought they called timeout, and then I realized it was a false start. Going into the second one, they called timeout again, so in my head, that’s two timeouts, and then I think I even looked at the Chargers’ sideline, cause I’m like, ‘Come on, man, I’m trying to finish this game and get back to Kansas City.’”

It was a big moment for the Chiefs kicker, but it isn’t the first time that he has been the hero. In fact, in his first regular-season game with the Chiefs, he nailed a 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining to help Kansas City beat Washington. This was just six days after he was plucked from the Panthers’ practice squad. That year, he had two games where he kicked five field goals each, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week and AFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors. Last season, he hit a game-winning 44-yard field goal to help the Patrick Mahomes-less Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings.

He has won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month three times and, including last Sunday, AFC Special Teams Player of the Week four times. In his four years with the Chiefs, he has been an incredible asset to the team; but is he the greatest in franchise history?

The Kansas City Chiefs franchise has seen its fair share of exceptional kickers. The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Jan Stenerud out of Montana State in the third round of the AFL’s 1966 draft. He was one of the first NFL players to be just a designated placekicker.

Most kickers at that time also played other positions. He played 13 seasons with the Chiefs, including the 1969 season which they won the Super Bowl. He had three field goals in that game. He made 279 field goals total for the franchise which was 64 percent of the field goals attempted. His longest was 55 yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Kicker Nick Lowery would end up replacing Stenerud in 1980.

Lowery spent 14 years with the Chiefs and made a total of 329 kicks. His field goal percentage was 80.2% and, until Sunday, he was the sole owner of the franchise’s longest field goal of 58 yards. He actually did it twice as well, just not in the same game. Lowery was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice and was selected to three Pro Bowls. However, the one thing that he doesn’t have that Stenerud and Butker have is a Superbowl ring.

After Lowery, the Chiefs tried guys like Lin Elliot, Pete Stoyanovich, Todd Peterson, Morten Anderson, and Lawrence Tynes. Stoyanovich and Tynes made some big kicks for the Chiefs and they caught Anderson at the end of his career, but none of them were spectacular. Elliot was a giant disappointment, especially in the 1995 Divisional Playoff game against the Colts.

Myself and Arrowhead Live’s Roman Metcalf actually go over the dismal career of Lin Elliot and that playoff game in the latest episode of The Kingdom Rewind podcast.

Things picked up for the Chiefs as far as kicking goes when they drafted Mr. Irrelevant, Ryan Succop. Succop made 119 field goals in his five years with the club. That was the most since Nick Lowery. He was AFC Special Teams Player of the Week three times in Kansas City. Succop was cut before the 2014 season when the team opted for a cheaper option in Cairo Santos.

Santos was pretty good too, making nearly 85 percent of his field goals during his time as a Chief. However, an injury to Santos would force the Chiefs to bring in Harrison Butker and they haven’t looked back since. Butker’s 90.2 field goal percentage is by far the best in franchise history. His 65 percent from 50 plus yards ranks second in team history behind Pete Stoyanovich, but Stoyanovich only attempted six of those kicks. Butker has attempted 17.

With the exception of Elliot, all of these kickers have made some great kicks and some great qualities, but what makes Harrison Butker different is that he has all of it. He has the leg strength as we saw on Sunday, he has the big clutch kicks throughout his career not just counting the ones on Sunday, he has the consistency with his high field goal percentage, and probably the biggest thing, he is a champion.  

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