Rams coach Jeff Fisher took some criticism yesterday when he said, “We’re on a record-setting pace with our punt team.” For the coach of one of the worst teams in the league to boast about punting doesn’t sit well with some football fans.
But here’s the thing: Rams punter Johnny Hekker really is having a great season. He’s having perhaps the greatest season of any punter in NFL history.
Net punting average is the single most important stat to use to evaluate a punter, and by that measure Hekker is having the best season ever, and it’s not even close. Hekker is already the only punter in NFL history to finish a season with a net average of over 44 yards, setting the league record for net punting average at 44.2 yards in 2013,. But this year Hekker isn’t just over 44 yards, he’s over 45 yards: If he stays at his current pace of 45.8 yards, he’ll obliterate his own record.
And Hekker is consistently putting opposing teams in bad field position: He already has 40 punts inside the 20-yard line this season, by far the most in the league and within striking distance of the NFL record of 46. At his current pace, Hekker will finish the season with 53 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Perhaps most amazingly, Hekker is nailing all those punts inside the 20 without kicking any too far: He has just one touchback this season. A ratio of 40 punts inside the 20 to one touchback is preposterous.
So laugh if you must at Fisher propping up his punting team. But know this: Fisher’s punter is having the best punting season ever.