Sam Koch‘s retirement from the Ravens after 16 years ends the longtime Koch- Justin Tucker partnership, one of the longest-running specialty duos in NFL history. The league has seen several others last a while. Here are the longest-tenured tandems, among pure kickers and punters, in special teams history.
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The gold (silver and black) standard for special teams longevity happened in Oakland to start the 21st century. The Raiders acquired both Janikowski and Lechler in 2000 — Janikowski via controversial first-round pick and Lechler in Round 5 — and extracted supreme value. Lechler, in particular, shined as a Raider. No pure punter in NFL history, even Raider legend Ray Guy, matches Lechler’s six first-team All-Pro nods. Lechler signing with the Texans in 2013 broke up the pair. “Seabass” trudged on for 17 seasons as a Raider, playing the most games in team history (268). He is one of eight men to have made a 63-yard field goal.
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In shipping out former MVP Bert Jones in 1982, the Colts landed a long-term punter. They took Stark with the second-rounder obtained from the Rams; Stark was the team’s punter until 1994. Biasucci came over in 1984 after the Falcons cut him. This duo was not called upon to kick in many big games; the Colts played one postseason contest during these longtime teammates’ 11 seasons together. But Stark was a four-time Pro Bowler; Biasucci was honored once as well. Both left in 1995, Biasucci finishing his career with the ’95 Rams and Stark playing in some bigger games with the Super Bowl XXX-bound Steelers.
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11 seasons: Jan Stenerud and Jerrel Wilson
These two played together on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team, with the tandem staying in Kansas City until 1977. Despite the Chiefs cratering as the ’70s progressed, their specialists enjoyed decorated careers. Stenerud, whom Kansas City chose as a future pick in the 1966 AFL Draft, morphed from Montana State ski jumper to Hall of Fame kicker. The Norwegian was the first pure kicker inducted. Wilson not only led the AFL in punting twice; the 15-year Chief was a three-time Pro Bowler after leading the expanded NFL thrice in the early ’70s. The Chiefs traded Wilson after the 1977 season, breaking up the pair.
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May saw the NFL’s current special teams longevity kingpins break up. Koch retired shortly after the Ravens drafted his successor (Penn State’s Jordan Stout) in Round 4. Koch wraps a 16-year career, one in which he played more games than anyone in Ravens history (256). A sixth-round pick in 2006, Koch made one Pro Bowl. Baltimore’s better-known specialist arrived in 2012 when each helped Baltimore win Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens will probably be fine if Tucker breaks Koch’s franchise games-played record. The five-time All-Pro may already be the best ever. It is somewhat surprising Tucker only makes $5 million a year.
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Lindell and Moorman combined to play 414 games; neither kicked in the playoffs. The Bills, however, did not have to worry about their special teams linchpins for a while, going from 2003-12 with the Lindell-Moorman partnership. Moorman was there earlier, coming to Buffalo as an undrafted free agent from Division II Pittsburg State. The small-school product thrived in 13 seasons, landing on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Lindell did not make a Pro Bowl as a Bill but kicked 14 seasons, finishing his career with the Buccaneers in 2013.
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Hanson’s 327 games are the most ever played for one team . The 1992 second-round pick went 21 years with the Lions; Harris became his most frequent battery mate. After the Bengals cut Harris midway through the 2003 season, the ex-Broncos draftee trekked to Detroit and lasted until 2012. Amazingly, Hanson was still going by then. The Lions traded way up in the ’92 draft for Hanson, who kicked in every regular-season game in 20 of his 21 years. Hanson enjoyed most of Barry Sanders’ career, kicking in playoff games in the ’90s, and lasted long enough to kick in the 2011 postseason with Megatron and Matthew Stafford.
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The Broncos brought in their longest-tenured duo together, drafting Elam in the 1993 third round and adding Rouen as a free agent. These two were with the franchise during its late-1990s apex, contributing to two Super Bowl-winning teams. During the second of those seasons, Elam became the second kicker ever (after Tom Dempsey) to boot a 63-yard field goal. A Hawaii alum, Elam played 15 seasons with the Broncos. Due to injuries John Elway suffered at points, Elam’s 236 games are the most in Broncos history. Rouen, a Colorado native, was with his home-state team until 2002. He ended his career three years later with Seattle.
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Nine seasons: Steve Christie and Chris Mohr
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Despite Scott Norwood’s Super Bowl miss, the Bills backed their longtime kicker. A Norwood make helped Buffalo oust Denver in the 1991 AFC title game. But the team moved on in 1992, signing Christie as a Plan B free agent from Tampa Bay. Mohr, who also began his career with the Buccaneers, joined the Bills after the Bucs cut him in 1991. From 1992-2000, Christie and Mohr became one of the NFL’s better tandems. They helped Buffalo to two more Super Bowls, with Christie’s game-winner over the Oilers in a 1992 wild-card game cementing the NFL’s greatest comeback. Both continued their careers away from Buffalo after a new Bills regime cut each in 2001.
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Eight seasons: St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams: Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker
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Although Les Snead is now known for splashy trades, two of his first moves as Rams GM addressed their special teams. In 2012, the Rams worked out Zuerlein on his Division II college campus (Missouri Western) and drafted him in Round 6. They signed Hekker as a UDFA soon after. One of the strongest-legged duos in NFL history combined for five All-Pro nods (four for Hekker, second-most among pure punters) and played major roles to help the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. The Nickell Robey-Coleman no-call, understandably, obscures Zuerlein’s 57-yard overtime game-winner. Hekker stuck around for the Super Bowl the Rams won three years later.
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Bryant and Bosher began this run in 2011 when the latter arrived as a sixth-round pick. Bryant’s career arc is more interesting. It took a while for the eventual 18-year veteran to stabilize his career. After struggling with the Giants, Bryant caught on with the Buccaneers in 2005, making a 62-yard game-winner in Tampa. Bryant’s Falcons run did not begin until his age-34 season, in 2009. He made the Pro Bowl during the Falcons offense’s dominant 2016 season and played until he was 44. Bosher worked as an effective sidekick, but a groin injury halted his career in 2019. Neither Falcon specialist kicked in 2020.
Maybe the most recognizable kicker-punter duo in NFL history, due to Vinatieri’s on-field success and McAfee’s media ubiquity, these Colts played together from 2009-16. Already a legend by the time he got to Indianapolis in 2006, via the iconic Patriots game-winners, Vinatieri played on the franchise tag in 2005. The Colts gave him a lucrative (for kickers) contract in 2006 to replace Mike Vanderjagt. Vinatieri picked up his fourth ring in his first Colts season and later became the NFL’s scoring leader. McAfee made two Pro Bowls in eight seasons and entered the media game early, retiring after his second all-star invite in 2016.
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Eight seasons: Pat Leahy and Chuck Ramsey
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No Jet’s longevity matches Leahy’s; the St. Louis University soccer player kicked in New York for 18 seasons beginning in 1974. Eight of those included Ramsey, a Patriots draftee who stopped over in the fledgling World Football League before catching on with the rival Jets in 1977. While Ramsey’s eight-season run does not even cover half of Leahy’s, the pair did help the Jets to an AFC title game in 1982. Leahy, whose 250 games are 43 more than anyone else in Jets history, hung around until 1991 when a nerve issue ended his final season early.
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Huber remains with the Bengals and figures to be teammates with Evan McPherson for a bit. While McPherson may one day be known (wherever this sort of thing is discussed) as the best Bengal kicker of the Huber era, the Huber-Nugent tandem featured an all-Ohio specialty crew. A Cincinnati native, Huber joined the Bengals as a 2009 fifth-round pick. The team signed Nugent, a Dayton-area product and second-round pick out of Ohio State, in 2010. They teamed up for the team’s five straight playoff berths from 2011-15. Nugent enjoyed a 16-year career, though only seven of those years came in Cincinnati.
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While Vanderjagt’s ill-advised 2003 interview criticizing Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning‘s leadership qualities preceded one of the worst field goal tries in playoff history — a January 2006 misfire that prevented overtime in an upset loss to the Steelers — the Canadian ended his eight-year Colts stay as the most accurate kicker in NFL history at the time (87.5%). After Manning’s infamous Pro Bowl retaliatory strike, Vanderjagt went 37-for-37 the following season. Smith played with Vanderjagt from 1999-2005, arriving as a seventh-round pick and staying until 2008. He teamed with Adam Vinatieri on Indianapolis’ Super Bowl XLI-winning team.
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Seven seasons: Jeff Jaeger and Jeff Gossett
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Both Jaeger and Gossett were on the 1987 Browns. By 1989, each was in Los Angeles. Gossett ended up a Raider after a low-level (per usual with punters) trade with the Oilers, while Jaeger came west as a Plan B free agent. The Browns took Jaeger in the 1987 third round but did not protect him in the NFL’s beta-free agency setup, after a 1988 foot injury. The two stayed Raiders through the 1995 move back to Oakland. Each peaked in 1991 when they became the rare specialty teammates to each earn All-Pro acclaim. Gossett, a USFL alum, played until 1996. Jaeger wrapped his career with the Bears in 1999.
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Seven seasons: Chris Bahr and Ray Guy
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From Guy to Gossett to Lechler, the Raiders know how to find punting stability. Widely regarded as the greatest modern-era punter, Guy was famously a first-round pick in 1973. His longest-tenured battery mate did not arrive in Oakland until 1980. The elder of the kicking Bahr brothers, Chris caught on with the Raiders after the Bengals did not bring him back for a fifth season. Guy was aboard for all three Raider Super Bowl wins; Bahr was there for the second two. Guy retired after the ’86 season and, 28 years later, broke new ground by becoming the first pure punter to receive a Hall of Fame bust.
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Seven seasons: Joe Danelo and Dave Jennings
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The late-1970s Giants do not inspire many great memories, with the “Miracle in the Meadowlands” scene their defining moment. But these teams received high-quality punting. Jennings, a 1974 UDFA, made four Pro Bowls in five seasons from 1978-82. The 14-year veteran played with Danelo from 1976-82, with the latter coming over via September 1976 trade with the Packers — for seventh- and 10th-round picks. Danelo twice led the NFL in field goal distance, most notably with a 55-yarder in 1981. Both finished their careers in the AFC East — Jennings as a Jet, Danelo a Bill.
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Seven seasons: Roy Gerela and Bobby Walden
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The pair in place when the Steelers’ dynasty began were both Oilers draftees, though they did not play together with the then-AFL franchise. The Steelers picked up Walden via trade from the Vikings in 1968 and added Gerela after the Oilers cut him in 1971. They were in place together through 1977, punting for the first two Steeler Super Bowl squads. One of the few pre-Chuck Noll players to make it to the Super Bowl years, Walden played 14 NFL seasons. Gerela, the inspiration for the “Gerela’s Gorillas” fan club — in a Pittsburgh period teeming with fan clubs — earned two Pro Bowl invites.
Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.