Saints By Position: Top 5 punters in franchise history

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Thomas Morstead
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Field position plays a huge role in football at any level.

Having a punter who can flip the field with a long punt is a huge asset to have.

Having a punter who gets significant hang time is very important.

Having a punter who can handle snaps adeptly and get punts off quickly is a necessity.

The New Orleans Saints have been blessed with good punters over a significant period of time.

Here are my Top 5 punters in New Orleans Saints history:

1) Thomas Morstead
2) Tommy Barnhardt
3) Brian Hansen
4) Tom Blanchard
5) Mark Royals/Mitch Berger

Thomas Morstead was a brilliant draft pick in the fifth round in 2009.

Morstead has fulfilled that investment and then some in 11 seasons and he is still going strong.

Morstead has played in 174 games, eighth most in franchise history. Morstead has averaged 46.9 yards per punt, best in franchise history. He has also kicked off 537 times with 2459 touchbacks. His most famous kickoff was in Super Bowl XLIV, when he executed a successful onside kick to start the second half of a 31-17 win over Indianapolis.

Morstead made the Pro Bowl in 2012, when he averaged an amazing 50.1 yards per punt. Morstead has been part seven playoff teams, second most of any player to Drew Brees in franchise history.

Tommy Barnhardt

Tommy Barnhardt punted eight years for the Saints (1987-94, ’99), playing in 110 games. Barnhardt averaged 42.5 yards per punt on 515 punts. Barnhardt was consistently good and was part of four playoff teams, the first four in franchise history.

Brian Hansen kicked five seasons (1984-88) with the Saints, playing in 76 games. Hansen averaged 42 yards per punt on 363 punts. He completed 3-of-3 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Hansen made the Pro Bowl in 1984, when he 43.8 yards per punt. Hansen was part of the first playoff team ever in 1987.

Tom Blanchard did a solid job over five seasons (1974-78).

Blanchard played in 71 games, averaging 41.3 yards per punt. Blanchard threw a touchdown pass from punt formation. Blanchard made second team All-Conference in 1974.

Mark Royals punted for two seasons (1997-98), punting in 32 games and he averaged 45.8 yards per punt, second best in New Orleans Saints history.

Mitch Berger punted for three years (2003-05), punting in 48 games for the Saints. Berger averaged 43.5 yards per punt.

Steve Weatherford spent three years punting for the Saints (2006-08), playing in 39 games. Weatherford averaged 43.5 yards per punt.

Tom McNeill was the original punter for the Saints from 1967-69. In his three seasons, McNeill played in 26 games, averaging 42.3 yards per punt on 130 punts. McNeill was famous for making plays, rather than punting. He ran six times for 39 yards and completed a pass for 24 yards from punt formation.

Toby Gowin punted for three seasons (2000-02), including for the 2000 team which won the NFC South and won the first playoff game in franchise history. Gowin played in 47 games, averaging 41.6 yards per punt. He ran five yards for a touchdown in 2000.

Russell Erxleben was a terrible investment as a first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 1979. The thought of Erxleben being an outstanding kicker disappeared quickly. He did turn out to be a solid punter but was nowhere near worth being drafted where he was picked, much less being drafted at all.

Erxleben punted five years (1979-83) with the Saints, averaging 40.6 yards per punt on 279 punts, playing in 58 games.

Julian Fagan punted for three years from 1970-72, averaging 41.6 yards on 225 punts in 42 games. Fagan was first team All-Conference in 1970.

Honorable mention:

Steve Weatherford
Tom McNeill
Toby Gowin
Russell Erxleben
Julian Fagan

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