ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Best quarterback of all time? Best receiver? Best linebacker?
Every football fan has had those discussions. Washington Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith threw down the gauntlet on a whole new category: best holder.
Hunter Smith, may be the best holder in the history of the game.
Smith based his case on the fact that until this year Hunter Smith had spent his entire 10-year career with the Indianapolis Colts holding for Mike Vanderjagt and Adam Vinatieri, two of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. When Hunter Smith is the holder, the ball goes through the uprights an astounding 85.8 percent of the time.
When confronted with this fact — and the bevy of statistics that followed — Hunter Smith didn't exactly start rehearsing his Hall of Fame speech at Canton.
"This," he said, "is hilarious."
He is quick to remind that he was holding for two great kickers.
"I don't think the holder makes the kicker," he said. "The kicker makes the kicker."
Yet he was more than willing to engage in a little bit of holder trash talk. Special teams players have their own niche, and it just so happens that one of Smith's chief rivals for the crown is punter-holder Jason Baker of the Carolina Panthers. The two are good friends and work out together in the offseason.
"As long as we are one-tenth ahead of Hunter Smith, I'm happy with that," Baker said with a laugh at Panthers training camp. "He's only ever known a right-footed kicker. What about the guy who can hold for a left-footed and right-footed kicker and it's seamless?"
How about that, Hunter?
"Well, he hasn't held for a right-footed kicker in a long time," said Smith, noting Baker's long association with Carolina's John Kasay.
And what about the fact that Smith has played half his games in the climate-controlled comfort of an indoor stadium in Indianapolis? Naturally he's going to get a better percentage than, say, the New York Giants' Jeff Feagles or Buffalo's Brian Moorman, two well-respected holders who regularly have to deal with cold, wind and the occasional snowstorm.
"When they gave us the Super Bowl ring, did it say 'indoor champions'?" Smith said with a sly smile.
So who really is the best of all time? Forget trying to Google it. It's a stat no one keeps. Going purely by the numbers, it has to be someone recent: The top 25 most accurate kickers in NFL history all played in this decade.
Sam Koch is having a good run with the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, he has Matt Stover as his kicker. Koch's percentage is right behind Smith's (85.8 to 85.6) and he's actually ahead of Smith when playoffs are included (86.4 to 85.9).
"Postseason statistics aren't statistics!" Smith said with mock indignation.
OK, so how about Mike Scifres with the San Diego Chargers? He's better than Smith in the regular season (86.1) but worse in the postseason (84.6).
"You know that I don't really care. The only thing that I care about is being better than him," Smith said, pointing to Baker's name on a piece of paper.
Whole new debate for fans: Who's the best holder?
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