While browsing Twitter not too long ago, I came across a series of tweets debating whether Jason Hanson or Matt Prater is the greatest Detroit Lions‘ kicker of all time. My immediate response was that Prater is the best the Lions have ever had but that was based solely on his percentage of makes from 50 yards and out.
That being said, I figured it would only be fair if I took a closer look before jumping to such a decisive conclusion
*Note: No disrespect is intended to Eddie Murray, who was also a very good kicker but in my opinion, he is not worthy of being in this conversation, especially since I am only considering their time spent with the Detroit Lions.
As you probably already know if you clicked on this, Jason Hanson spent 21 seasons with the Lions. During that time, he was selected to the Pro Bowl on two occasions (1997 and 1999) and he was always considered to be one of the most consistent kickers in the league. In his career, Hanson made 495 field goals (23.57 per season), including a career-best 34 in 1993.
As far as Prater goes, he played seven seasons for the Lions and was selected to play in one Pro Bowl. During his time with the Lions, Prater connected on 179 of 212 field-goal attempts (84.4%). In his career as a whole, Prater has made 344 of 416 field-goal attempts (82.7%)
You never know with kickers, but chances are that Prater, who is 37, will not play long enough to match Hanson and likely will not end up with as many career field goals.
EDGE: Jason Hanson
Accuracy from Long Range
When it comes to kicking long field goals, not many have been better than Matt Prater.
So far in his career, Prater has connected on 65 of 88 attempts (73.9%) from 50+ yards, including a career-long kick of 64 yards while playing for the Denver Broncos in 2013.
Hanson, on the other hand, connected on just 52 of 93 attempts (55.9 %) from 50+ yards with a career-long kick of 56 yards.
There is little question that Prater is better from downtown.
EDGE: Matt Prater
Accuracy from Mid-Range
From 40-49 yards out, things are much closer than they were from long range.
In his career, Hanson made 136 of 186 kicks (73%) from 40-49 yards compared to 80 of 116 (69%) for Prater.
The crazy thing about this is that Prater is substantially better from long range than he is from 40-49 yards.
That being said, for whatever reason, Hanson seems to be the better kicker (not by much) from this distance.
EDGE: Jason Hanson
Chip Shot Accuracy
When talking chip-shot field goals, I am referring to anything from 0-39 yards out and both Hanson and Prater are very accurate from this range, as they should be. (Hell, I even nailed a 46-yard field goal at the Silverdome with just a sock on, back in the day)
Anyways, Hanson made 307 of 322 (95.3%) from short range while Prater has connected on 199 of 212 (93.9%), so both kickers did their job in these situations.
There is no question about it that Jason Hanson (when he played) and Matt Prater (now) have ice water in their veins in pressure situations.
Though I had a difficult time finding actual stats on fourth-quarter/game-winning field goal leaders, I did find one site that helped me out up through the 2015 season.
Through 2015, Hanson ranked 8th all-time with 21 fourth-quarter/game-winning kicks while Prater checked in at No. 57 with just 9. Now, as I said, this only covers through the 2015 season and Prater has certainly added to that list since then.
In fact, through November 20, 2017, Prater had attempted 10 potentially game-tying or game-winning field goals in the final four minutes during his time with the Lions and he made them all. (Prater has added to that number since then.)
Considering Prater has played fewer seasons than Hanson, and he is sure to add to his totals, this one is a push for me.
Who is the greatest Detroit Lions kicker of all time?
Now, I am not going to lie. I was a ball boy for the Lions when Jason Hanson was kicking and I got to hold for him during practice and prior to every home game so I may be a bit biased.
That being said, I am confident that the numbers above show two things. 1) Both Jason Hanson and Matt Prater are two of the greatest kickers in NFL history and 2) Prater is just a little bit better based on the criteria above as I give a lot of value to being able to connect from 50+ yards at such an accurate clip
VERDICT: Matt Prater is the greatest Detroit Lions kicker of all-time
Nation, what do you think?
Murray kicked in a different era and needs to be compared to his contemporaries in that time. Though he became a journeyman when he left the Lions, he was able to be a key factor in Jimmy Johnson’s second Super Bowl winning Dallas team, providing kicking stability and some key clutch kicks (huge overtime winner in the Meadowlands that season).
The common denominator for all three men is that they played for a sh*tty Lions franchise. You could argue theany kick is a pressure kick in the “Not For Long” if you start missing, but having good stats on a proverbial also ran is different from having good stats on a big time contender.
Hanson spent his entire career in an indoor stadium, meaning a minimum of eight regular season games a year. I give a much higher rating to contemporaries who have kicked in tough weather situations. Steve Christie was terrific in the clutch in lousy weather Buffalo for most of his career until his leg strength went down the tube
Definitely Jason all the way, when I think of a Detroit lion I think of him along side other greats like Herman Moore,Barry sanders, Jeff backus, Charlie batch and Stafford/megatron duo. I would have prater in but out here livin in Denver and really seeing him play in Denver, fans kinda already have him as one of the greats in Denver. Watching Hanson for 21 years rather than prater for 5 or so. Jason is Detroit football. Jason worked hard for Detroit and had a long ass career with us, no doubt in my mind I’m choosing Jason all day.
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