These are anxious times for former NFL kicker extraordinaire Morten Andersen.
He’s one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth consecutive year and one of his former teams, the Atlanta Falcons, is one win away from playing in Super Bowl LI.
The Falcons are a 4-point favorite to beat the Green Bay Packers for the NFC championship at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Andersen’s chances of getting in the Hall of Fame are more daunting, considering that his body of work over 25 NFL seasons with five different teams, including the New Orleans Saints (1982 to 1994), must win over an elite 48-member selection committee of varying likes and dislikes.
“I don’t know what to think,’’ said the 56-year-old Andersen when reached at his home in Buford, Georgia. “Voters change their flavors every year. They get on different horses, if you will. I try not to read into anything because I don’t understand it all. I just try to enjoy the process as much as I can. You’ve got to trust the process and those (people) in the room to make the right choices based on the knowledge and information they have.
“It’s a little more wide open this year if you look at the list of finalists. I’d say (former running back) LaDainian Tomlinson probably deserves to go in on the first ballot. Other than that, I’ve been a finalist for a while and so have other guys.’’
If I were to handicap Andersen’s chances, I’d list him at 6-1 — a fair-to-middling shot. Remember, he’s a kicker. Some ignoramuses believe kickers are not true football players. Fortunately, none sit on the aforementioned selection committee. Still, only one pure kicker — Jan Stenerud — is in the Hall, enshrined in 1991.
Truth be told, I’d say the Falcons are better positioned to extend their season than the “Great Dane’’ is poised to end up in the Class of 2017. Not that Andersen isn’t deserving because he’s certifiably Hall of Fame worthy. His resume’ is impeccable. He ended his stellar career as the league’s all-time leader in points scored (2,544), field goals made (565) and games played (382), and the all-time leading scorer for both the Saints (1,318 points) and Falcons (806).
Andersen booted the Falcons into their one and only Super Bowl appearance to date. On Jan. 17, 1999, he kicked a 38-yard field with 3:08 remaining in overtime to lift the Falcons to a dramatic 30-27 victory against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
“That was a defining moment for me and my team in a significant game,’’ said Andersen, who is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and team’s Ring of Honor inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “Maybe if (Atlanta kicker) Matt Bryant gets a chance to win it Sunday, people will flash back to our game in ’99. Maybe, those great moments in Falcons history might help me. It can’t hurt. It’s a positive that the Falcons are where they are right now. Who knows? Who knows?’’
Other modern-era finalists include Tomlinson, tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Alan Faneca, tackle Joe Jacoby, cornerback Ty Law, free safety John Lynch, center-guard Kevin Mawae, wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Jason Taylor and quarterback Kurt Warner.
Safety Kenny Easley is a senior finalist and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue are finalists from the contributor category.
That group of 18 was pared from an original nominating list of around 100 to 26, then 15. Inside the board room on Selection Saturday Feb. 4 in Houston, the committee will enter into a deep and exhaustive discussion on each of the 15 modern-era finalists and reduce the list to 10, and then to the final five. A minimum positive vote of 80 percent is necessary for election (38 votes).
So you can see it is a thorough process.
“What you hope for is they get tired of (talking about) you in the room,’’ Andersen said, chuckling. “You know, ‘here’s that same guy again, he’s still in the room.’ Then, they kick you out the door.’’
“Hopefully, they kick you into the Hall of Fame and not out into the hallway.’’
Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.