Vargas: Morten Andersen, not a Hall of Famer? That’s a kick in the teeth

Someday soon, while wearing a gold jacket, former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen should deliver an induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It would’ve been appropriate for him to give one this past Saturday with the members of the Class of 2013, but he didn’t.

Andersen, now 52, will be inducted into the Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame this Saturday. He already has been inducted into three other halls: the Saints Hall of Fame in 2009 and both the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the athletics hall at Michigan State, where he played in college, in 2011.

That’s all fine, but where Andersen belongs — immediately — is in Canton, Ohio. There’s no reason to make the “Great Dane” wait beyond next year.

The native of Denmark spent 13 seasons with the Saints, eight with the rival Atlanta Falcons and a total of 25 in the NFL. His last season in the league was in 2007.

He entered the NFL about a decade before the Internet was mainstream, and he appeared in his last game more than three years after Facebook was launched.

Andersen is the all-time leading scorer for the Saints (1,318 points), the Falcons (806) and the NFL (2,544). No one has ever made more field goals (565), attempted more of them (709), played in more games (382) or scored in more consecutive games (360) than Andersen — not even Jan Stenerud, who became the first pure place-kicker to be enshrined in 1991, his first year of eligibility.

Stenerud’s career field goal percentage was 66.8; Andersen’s was 79.7. He made more than nine out of every 10 field goals he tried from between 20 and 39 yards, the “makeable” attempts other kickers in the league have struggled to convert at one point or another.

Unlike Stenerud, Andersen spent most of his career kicking indoors, and he did not win a Super Bowl. But he has other worthy credentials.

He is the only NFL player to lead two franchises in scoring. He nailed a 38-yard, overtime field goal to clinch Atlanta’s only NFC championship.

Indeed, Pro Football Hall of Fame voters recognized Andersen’s unique career and named him one of 27 semifinalists this year, the first time he was eligible for enshrinement. But he fell short of the list of 17 finalists, from which were drawn the inductees: Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp, as well as senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson.

Several of the players inducted this year got their gold jackets because they were among the best at their position and won Lombardi trophies — and that’s fair. Those players manned positions that are traditionally far more lionized than kickers are, especially by those who don’t consider kickers to be real football players.

Andersen, though, was not among the greatest at his position. He was the greatest.

Asked whether Andersen deserved to be enshrined in Canton much sooner than later, ex-quarterback Bobby Hebert — who played with the Great Dane in Atlanta and New Orleans — didn’t hesitate to say, “Oh, for sure.”

Hebert cited Andersen’s quarter-century tenure in the NFL, where injuries are common and even the most promising players’ skills can quickly deteriorate, as well as his scoring records.

“By his achievements ... I definitely think Morten Andersen will get in,” Hebert said recently.

Jim Mora, who coached Andersen in New Orleans, agreed.

“You’ve got to marvel at the career Morten has had,” Mora said in a statement accompanying the announcement of Andersen’s induction into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall. “Not only should Morten Andersen go down as the greatest kicker in NFL history, but he should go down as one of the great players in National Football League history.”

So, Morten, enjoy what you’ve earned this Saturday. We should be hearing from you next summer in Canton.

And it will have been past time.