Note: the Buffalo Rumblings "Unsung Heroes" series continues today with a look at Bills P Brian Moorman. Previous Heroes: LB Keith Ellison, RB Anthony Thomas.
There aren't many NFL teams that can say that their punter was (or was close to being) the most valuable performer on their team. Well, no team with more than, say, a 4-12 record, at least. But most teams don't have two-time Pro Bowler Brian Moorman punting for their team, do they? Most Bills fans are aware that Moorman is an elite punter; it's time to understand his true value to this franchise. It runs much deeper than simply punting a football.
Flipper of the Field
What makes Moorman so valuable on the field is his ability to "flip the field", or switch the situation from the opponent being deep in Bills territory to deep in their own territory. At one point last year, it looked like Moorman would be the first punter in Bills history to break 40 yards in net punting average; alas, the harsh weather of a Buffalo winter robbed him of that accomplishment (he finished with a 39.2 net average), but the point remains - Moorman and his punt coverage units are among the best in the league at flipping the field.
That isn't a blind assessment by me, that's statistical fact - the 4.4 yards allowed by opposing punt returners was second in the league behind San Diego's unit, which allowed just 3.7 yards. The difference between Moorman and the Chargers' Mike Scifres are vast, however - kicking in San Diego is much different than kicking in Buffalo, and Moorman's larger kick average (43.6 to 41.9) in such a vastly different climate shows just how much he outclasses Scifres.
Team Leader, Fan Favorite
What sets Moorman apart from every other punter in the NFL is his reputation in Buffalo. Punters are punters everywhere else, but Moorman is a superstar in Wester New York. Fans love to see his booming kicks, his uplifting attitude when big plays are made on special teams and mostly on trick plays. Remember Moorman taking a fake punt and running for a first down last season at Chicago? It was the only play the Bills made that entire game, and the fans loved him for it. The diminutive player is just an infectious guy that fans and teammates love to have around.
Being such a prominent face on the league's best special teams unit, Moorman is a team leader as well. He was a bright spot throughout the Tom Donahoe Era, and he has established himself as a go-to veteran presence on an up-and-coming young team. Believe me when I say that he is one of the most important players for the Buffalo Bills heading into the '07 season - he's a team captain, a team leader and a fan favorite. That's been rare in Buffalo since the Super Bowl days.
You can expect what has become status quo for Moorman this season - big kicks, big energy, big smiles and likely another Pro Bowl berth. It doesn't get much more "unsung hero" than a punter, but there isn't a punter in the league that's more valuable to his team than Brian Moorman.