One of the greatest Detroit Lions of all time is considering retiring and nobody seems to care. Kicker Jason Hanson is contemplating hanging up his cleats as I write this, and it’s not causing a stir on sports talk radio. Maybe the fact that it’s the Kicker who’s thinking about retiring and not a position player is the reason that everybody is so ho-hum about it. Just wait until the the next guy misses a thirty five-yarder that was so automatic with Hanson. Then everyone will start to notice his absence.
As great as Hanson has been in his stellar career, he has no chance of ever making the Hall of Fame. That’s because he never had the chance to kick a game winner in a game that meant something. The Lions infrequently made the playoffs in the 90′s, but were booted out in the first round every time. It was 12 long years until last year when the Lions made the playoffs again, but with the same result–a first round loss. If Hanson had the opportunity to play for a high profile team like the Patriots or the Steelers and hit some game winners, then he would probably have been the second kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It seems like if you’re a Kicker for the Detroit Lions, then you have a chance of making it a lifetime job in football years. Since 1980, the Lions have had only 2 kickers. Count’em, 2 kickers in 33 years. Eddie Murray booted for the Lions from 1980 until the 1991 season. Hanson was drafted in the second round in the 1992 draft, and the Lions haven’t looked back since. If Murray wore number 3 and Hanson wore number 4, does that mean the next guy is going to be number 5?
Should Hanson walk away from the game, he’ll do so a member of the NFL record books. He has more career field goals, 52, of 50 yards or more, than anyone else in history. He has the most seasons with the same team, 21, and the most games played of anyone who ever wore a NFL uniform. Every NFL player should try to emulate the class which Hanson carries himself while playing. One of the sad things about Hanson retiring is that despite all of the Lions problems over the last 2 decades, and there have been boatloads, the Lions are losing one of their few advantages they have over the other teams. A better kicker. Through all of the tough years, Jason Hanson was always their saving grace.