Lechler on Pace for All-Time Record

By Joe Kukura
|  Friday, Nov 13, 2009  |  Updated 10:30 AM PDT
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Shabe Lechler is having an all-time great season

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You don't expect to have many "All-Time Greatest Single Season" conversations about a two-win team with a so-fired coach and the worst offense in the NFL.

But you can have that conversation about one of your players, Oakland Raiders fans. Shane Lechler is on pace to have the most prolific season for any NFL punter, ever.

Jerry McDonald crunches the numbers on his Oakland Tribune blog, and points out that Lechler has a 52.3 yard-per-punt average through eight games of the 2009 season. This is well above Sammy Baugh's single-season record of a 51.4 yard-per-punt average, set nearly 70 years ago in 1940.

It's even more impressive considering Lechler plays for a poor offensive team that punts frequently. Lechler is the sixth most frequently called-upon punter in the league. Yet he maintains freakishly historic averages, punt after punt after third-and-out punt.

And Lechler hasn't even had his shot at the Cowboys scoreboard yet.

Slingin' Sammy Baugh set the long-standing current record as a Washington Redskin in 1940. Baugh was the original "Slash," playing starting quarterback, safety and punter. He was on the field for nearly every snap of each game he played in his 16-year career.

Lechler has long idolized Baugh, and has been specifically pursuing that 70-year-old record since he was drafted in 2000. "You look back at those records and you see the numbers," he told the Oakland Tribune, "And you’re like, ‘Were their calculations right then? You guys serious?'"

Complain all you want about the Raiders' recent personnel decisions, the move to make Lechler the richest punter ever has surely paid off. A year ago this time, Lechler got punched out by a teammate and was biding his time until his contract ended. But Al Davis somehow talked Lechler into staying on the reservation.

And all Lechler has done in return is give the Raiders the best season any punter has ever had. 

Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who must also admit that if one's best player is one's punter, then one's team probably stinks.

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