In our Walkthroughs post yesterday, we discussed what players we’d bring back from the pre-Wolf/Holmgren/Favre era to improve the 2020 Packers. On top of the list we put together, our readers suggested a few great names in the comments. Courtesy of BuckysBadgers, one name jumped out at me: Jan Stenerud.
At first blush, it seems a little odd. The Packers have a perfectly good kicker! Why try to change what’s going well? And while that may be true, Stenerud’s story might be worth bringing him through our hypothetical time portal.
A Norweigan immigrant, Stenerud came to the United States on a ski jumping scholarship to Montana State. After completing a training session, Stenerud noticed some football players kicking field goals and, recalling his background in soccer, he figured he’d give it a try. The school’s basketball coach noticed him booting the ball around the field, tipped off the football coaches, and the rest is history.
Stenerud went on to a highly successful 19-year NFL career. He kicked three field goals in Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV win, made the Pro Bowl four times, was named an All-Pro four times, earned spots on both the 75th and 100th NFL Anniversary teams, had his number retired by the Chiefs, and is a member of both the Chiefs and Packers team Halls of Fame. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
Stenerud played parts of four seasons in Green Bay from 1980 to 1983, converting 59 of 73 field goal attempts and 115 of 118 extra points in that span. He led the league in field goal accuracy in 1981, making 22 of 24 kicks (91.7%). It’s not an exaggeration to say he was one of the league’s most accurate kickers during that time period. He’s one of just five kickers with a cumulative accuracy above 80% from 1980 to 1983, and he attempted by far the most kicks out of anyone on the list.
Though it wasn’t his best in terms of accuracy, Stenerud’s 1983 season might have been his finest in Green Bay. That year he made 21 of 26 field goal attempts and knocked through all 52 of his extra point attempts as Lynn Dickey, James Lofton, and the rest of the Packers offense rolled up touchdown after touchdown. And though it’s hardly the headline in the overall scope of a wild game, Stenerud did kick the game-winner in the Packers’ 48-47 Monday Night Football romp with the Washington Redskins that year.
Though he’s most notable for his time with the Chiefs and also played for the Vikings (hey, nobody’s perfect), Stenerud cites his time with the Packers as possibly the best and definitely the most unique.
“I can honestly say that if you haven’t played football in Green Bay and you’ve been in the NFL a long time, you’ve missed out on something special,” he said in an interview with Monday Night Football in 2000. “It’s a special experience. [Football] is so important to the people of the community and the people of the state. It is unbelievable. I am just thrilled to death that I got that opportunity.”
Does all that add up to a player worth swapping for Mason Crosby? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not really the point. It’s always worth reflecting on a player who was great in Green Bay — and loved his time there, to boot.