Jason Hanson was truly a rare breed
Brian Urlacher left the Chicago Bears. Peyton Manning was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts. Even Brett Favre moved on from Green Bay.
Not Jason Hanson.
In a National Football League where nothing is certain anymore and longevity with one team is largely a thing of the past, Hanson, the Detroit Lions unfailing and allegiant kicker stared that trend down and booted it through the uprights – probably from over 50 yards out too.
This is the Detroit Lions we’re talking about, remember. They’re a contender now; a far cry from the 0-16 team of 2008, but it’s worth noting the team has been league laughing stocks multiple times in the last decade and beyond.
Why didn’t Hanson ever leave for greener pastures? He certainly had the means. He was always consistently great. Even in the 0-16 season, Hanson made 21 of 22 kicks, statistically, his best career percentage. The winless season wasn’t his fault.
What persuaded him to stick with the team that infamously drove even Barry Sanders into a premature retirement?
It was his uncommonly rare and old school values, his unwavering sense of loyalty and gratitude to the organization that drafted him.
Hanson wanted to finish what he started. Taking his talents to a winning team would be taking the easy way out and I think Hanson legitimately enjoyed the challenge. In his heart, he wanted Detroit to be great and he gave it his all each and every one of his NFL record 21 seasons with the Lions.
Oh, and by the way, he never complained. Not once.
The Detroit LIons could write an encyclopedia on inventing new ways to lose, but even when players across the board unleashed their frustrations, you never heard it from Hanson.
Not when Bobby Ross pulled the rug out from under him and unnecessarily and hilariously went for two 2-point conversions against the Arizona Cardinals in the 90s; Not when Lions management shed top talent and drove the greatest running back in NFL history away; and not when the organization hit rock bottom at 0-16.
Eternal persistence when there was no perceivable reason to keep going. That was Jason Hanson.
And everyone took him for granted, much in the way Detroit Red Wings fans after a long period of time took Nicklas Lidstrom for granted. You just get used to it. Lions fans, myself included, bemoaned the settling for field goals when our anemic offense couldn’t get the job done in the red zone. But what if Jason Hanson wasn’t there? Instead of three points, it could have been no points. Hanson was simply automatic and we came to expect it. A rare miss was like the end of the world.
For his career, he made just over 82 percent of his kicks, which ties him for third overall in NFL history for kickers who have completed their careers. He also holds the NFL record for most 50+ yard field goals with 93.
He will likely be Detroit’s only Hall of Famer over the last 12 years, a model of consistency in a sea of chaos.
In the end, Hanson left on his own terms, his reward f. His mind and his heart said yes but his aching 42 year old body said it was time. If the Lions are smart, and I’ll just say that’s a pretty big if, they’ll retain Hanson in the organization on some level.
Hanson’s value to the team will be realized this Autumn.
I was eight years old when Hanson was drafted by the Lions. There is no other Detroit kicker in my memory. This season some impostor will be wearing that jersey and attempting to do what Hanson did 495 times during his long career. Only then, when that undoubtedly does not go according to plan, will Hanson truly be missed.