On September 9th, 1969, Steve O’Neal of the New York Jets boomed a 98-yard punt at Denver that most likely will stand the test of time as the longest punt in professional football history. It most certainly will on all our tabletops unless the boards get revised.
Throughout my current replay of the 2015 NFL season, I am frequently amazed at these modern-day punter’s ability to “flip the field” with booming punts. In a game that I replayed yesterday between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons, Matthew Bosher of the Atlanta Falcons, booted a 91-yard punt. After reviewing all my replays, this punt stands as the longest to ever occur on my tabletop.
Professional football players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before and the statistics over the years reflect that. In addition, rule changes have resulted in even more offense and scoring. Having replayed several seasons from a wide array of eras, the one area that has usually remained the same in overall production has been punting up until now.
I decided to do some research to see if today’s punters kick the ball farther or if it was just my imagination. First, I wanted to rule out that punter’s cards were not correctly calculated. The actual 2015 NFL league average per punt was 45.1 yards and my replay after 204 games is 45.4 yards per punt resulting in zero issue on card construction.
In the below chart, you will notice I used replay seasons from the past six decades and qualified punters from my 2015 NFL replay. The mean average for “long” punts was 62.6 for 1966 thru 2002. The mean average for my 2015 NFL replay is 72.1 which is 9.5 yards farther. Nearly a ten-yard difference is a big disparity and demonstrates what a weapon today’s punters are in the field position battle.