State Your Case: Sean Landeta -- great player, wrong positon

Photo courtesy of the New York Football Giants
Rick Gosselin

There have been only 20 two-time all-decade players in NFL history.

Eighteen of them now have busts in the Hall of Fame. The other two are kickers. Well, a kicker (Gary Anderson) and a punter (Sean Landeta).

There is hope for Anderson. There are two pure placekickers now in the Hall of Fame – Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen. Both were elected early in their modern-era candidacies. So at least the door has been cracked for Anderson’s possible inclusion.

There is less hope for Landeta. There is only one pure punter enshrined in Canton – Ray Guy. And he had to wait 23 years to get his bust … and only then as a senior candidate.

Landeta is in his 15th year of eligibility and has never even been a semifinalist, much less a finalist. A punter of his accomplishment deserves better.

Landeta punted three seasons in the USFL, then 22 seasons in the NFL. He played 284 career games in the NFL, 16th most in NFL history. Landeta was 44 years old in his final season in 2005, which made him the oldest player ever to punt a football in an NFL game. He’s also the only punter ever to average 50 yards per punt in a game in three different decades.

But there’s more on Landeta’s resume than just longevity. There was the productivity. When he retired after the 2005 season, Landeta had punted more times (1,401) for more yards (60,707) than anyone in NFL history. And that doesn’t even include his 204 punts for 8,499 yards from his three seasons in the USFL.

“Sean punted all year round,” former Giants coach Bill Parcells said. “It used to drive me crazy. If you took him out for pre-game warmups, if the time didn’t expire to go in, he’d still be out there. He was one of those who just punted and punted and punted. And, hey, he was very good at it. He certainly withstood the test of time.”

Landeta led the NFL in net average in 1989 (37.8 yards), inside-the-20 punts in 1990 (24), punting average in 1994 (44.8 yards) and punts in 1999 (107). Landeta spent 10 seasons with the New York Giants, five with the St. Louis Rams, five with the Philadelphia Eagles and single seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers. He retired with a career average of 43.3 yards.

Landeta was named to the 20th anniversary team of the St. Louis Rams, the 75th anniversary team of the Philadelphia Eagles and the all-time team of the New York Giants. He also was named to the all-time USFL team. Landeta was a first-team all-decade choice in the 1980s and second-team selection in the 1990s. He also was named to the Super Bowl’s 40th anniversary team.

Ah, the Super Bowls. Landeta was more than a punter. He was a champion, winning two USFL titles with the Philadelphia Stars and two Super Bowls with the Giants.

In his first Super Bowl, a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos in 1987, Landeta averaged 46 yards on his three punts with a long of 59 yards. One of his kicks pinned the Broncos inside the 20. He averaged 43.8 yards on his four punts in his second Super Bowl, a 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in 1991. He had a long punt of 54 yards and pinned the Bills inside the 20 twice.

Landeta also launched a career-long 74-yard punt during his one season with the Buccaneers, a 72-yard punt during his one season with the Packers and a 70-yarder with the Rams.

Landeta is in the sports Halls of Fame of his alma mater (Towson), college football (NCAA) and the states of both Maryland and Pennsylvania. It’s time the Pro Football Hall of Fame gives him a look as well.

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