Sam Koch Had Hall of Fame-Worthy Career; Full Reaction to Punter’s Retirement

Brian Billick Says Sam Koch Had Hall of Fame-Worthy Career; Full Reaction to Punter’s Retirement

When Sam Koch made his NFL debut in 2006, the Ravens had Steve McNair at quarterback and Brian Billick as head coach. Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first pick in this year’s draft, was 5 years old.

That puts perspective on how long Koch, who announced his retirement yesterday after 16 seasons in Baltimore, played. However, the punter’s legacy goes beyond being the franchise’s all-time leader in games (256).

“When you look at the career that he’s had, I would definitely say this is Hall of Fame level,” Billick said on Glenn Clark Radio yesterday. “He did change the game at that position. To me, that’s the ultimate definition of a Hall of Fame player.”

Koch faces long odds when it comes to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as Ray Guy is the only punter with a bust in Canton, but there’s no denying the impact Koch has had on the sport.

“A sixth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2006, Koch’s innovative ways helped evolve the art of punting in the NFL,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote. “As a holder, he was so sure-handed and precise that former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg maintains that nobody in the history of the league has been better in that role. In a league where specialists are often treated as separate entities from the team, Koch’s teammates long considered the punter one of the best athletes on the Ravens. He certainly was one of their fiercest competitors, his wry smile and blue-collar approach obscuring a fiery demeanor, maniacal attention to detail and an insistence on holding himself and his special teams teammates to the highest of standards.

“Koch, though, was always hardest on himself. He was constantly tinkering, searching for ways to improve. When he entered the league, he was a directional punter, focused on pinning returners on the sideline or just booting the ball as high and deep as possible. But about midway through his career, searching for ways to nullify opposing returners in a division that included Antonio Brown, Josh Cribbs and Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, Koch added to his repertoire. It started with a cross-body punt, where he angled himself toward the right sideline, but swung his foot across his body and sent the ball soaring toward the left sideline. When done correctly, the punt gives returners little time to get to the spot and return the ball. As the years went by , Koch introduced more punts, diversifying spins, trajectories and launch angles.”

Koch played a key role in the Ravens’ win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. With the Ravens leading by five and backed up at their own 8 with 12 seconds left, Koch took an intentional safety by taking the snap in the end zone and running off eight seconds before going out of bounds. He then booted the ensuing free kick 61 yards, which allowed his teammates time to get down the field and cover the kick to win the game.

“Looking back on it nine years later, the game-ending two-play sequence is a fitting summation of Koch’s career,” Zrebiec wrote. “Whether it was getting the ball down for a game-winning field-goal attempt or shifting field position late with a long punt or even converting a key fourth down with his arm, the Ravens trusted Koch implicitly when he had the ball in his hands .

“That’s not something you can say about a lot of punters, but Koch was so much more than that to the Ravens over 16 years.”

Here’s a sample of what others around the league said about Koch yesterday:

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