One of the NFL’s oldest records is Sammy Baugh’s single-season punting average of 51.40 yards per punt, set in 1940.
In seven decades since then, no one has topped 50 yards a punt, although Donnie Jones of the Rams averaged exactly 50.0 last year and Shane Lechler of the Raiders averaged 49.11 yards per punt in 2007.
This year there’s talk that Lechler might be ready to surpass Baugh’s mark. The Associated Press is pointing out that Lechler currently averages 52.3 yards a punt, by far the best mark in the league and well ahead of Baugh’s record pace.
However, as we’ve noted previously, punters routinely put up better numbers over the first half of the season than they do over the second half, as weather worsens and conditions become more difficult for punters. It would be tough for Lechler to continue to average 52.3 yards a punt for eight more games.
That doesn’t mean Lechler won’t break the record, just that Baugh’s record won’t go down easily.
It should also be noted that as great a punter as Baugh was, he didn’t have as strong a leg as Lechler. Baugh’s average was bolstered, however, by employing plenty of quick kicks, when he would take a snap at quarterback and then punt the ball from just a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Those quick kicks usually got long rolls at the end, because opposing defenses wouldn’t have a returner ready to catch them on the fly.
In any event, while it’s tough to make much of a comparison between Lechler and Baugh, it will be interesting to see whether Lechler can keep up the pace and give Baugh a run for his money. At least, to the extent that watching the Oakland Raiders punt could ever be described as “interesting.”