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With voting well underway for the All-Decade team presented by LeoVegas, CFL.ca columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson return to go back and forth on who is the best special teamer of the last 10 years.
TORONTO — Looking at the All-Decade Team presented by LeoVegas, the list of top performers on special teams over the last 10 years is full of dynamic playmakers.
There are kickers who come up in clutch situations, helping their teams score crucial points, sometimes with no time left on the clock. There are the punters, who boot the ball down the field to pin the opposition deep in their own zone. There are also returners, who’s speed and agility can either get their offence into great field position or they can weave around defenders all the way to the end zone to score a touchdown.
Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson have very different answers about who has been the best special teamer over the past decade. On one hand, the best has to have the ability to kick and punt the ball well on a consistent basis. On the other, the excitement and explosiveness of a returner should make them the top dog.
MORE ON THE ALL-DECADE TEAM
Is it the returner who is the best on special teams or the kicker/punter? Steinberg and Ferguson are here with their arguments.
|BERG VS. FERG: LAST TIME’S RESULTS
Last time, Berg and Ferg debated the All-Decade voting process and what matters most: Productivity or longevity.
Poll Result: Does productivity or longevity matter more in your voting for the All-Decade team presented by LeoVegas?
Ferguson: Longevity 47%
Steinberg: Productivity (53%)
When a player can boast being one of, if not the best, player in two special teams disciplines over the course of a decade, it carries weight with me. That’s exactly what Justin Medlock did. In his seven seasons he played over the last ten years, Medlock has been both an elite kicker and punter for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That’s why I feel compelled to make my argument for him in this conversation.
It’s easy to see how good Medlock has been in the kicking game. In five of the seven years he played in the 2010’s, the UCLA grad was 88% or better kicking field goals and finished near the top of the accuracy table nearly every single season. Yes, there are other players who have legitimate claims for the decade’s best kicker (Rene Paredes comes to mind), but none of them combine what Medlock was able to do in the field position game.
Medlock’s work as a punter doesn’t grab headlines. He’s never booted a game-winning punt with time expiring. But what he did during the last decade pinning opposing teams deep and limiting return yards with his placement was incredible. Medlock did outstanding work punting “outside the numbers” over the last decade, which makes opposing returns more difficult. For instance, no one placed more punts between the numbers and the sidelines in 2019 than Medlock, which was par for the course. And, in six of Medlock’s seven seasons during the last decade, he kept his safety total to two or under, which is quite the feat considering his raw average.
At each individual discipline, there are a few candidates you could argue for as player of the decade. But for Medlock to be one of the league’s two or three best kickers on an annual basis and one of the best punters of all-time seals this conversation for me. Oh, and he just happened to finish off his decade with a Grey Cup championship in Winnipeg.
Special teams – especially in the CFL – is all about the splash play.
One moment on specials can change the game, for better or worse, in an instant and return men are the heart of that dynamic.
When it comes to returners, nobody remembers the safe and savvy kick catchers who average eight yards per return. Being average as a returner does no good, you have to make the big play to be remembered.
With those parameters in place, there is no more dynamic return man of the CFL’s last decade than Hamilton’s Brandon Banks.
Just take a moment off the top of your head to see how many memorable moments you can remember of Banks over the last seven years?
The called back return touchdown in 2014’s edition of the Grey Cup undoubtedly made your instant list, maybe the two touchdowns against Montreal in an Eastern Final, perhaps a long field goal return or two?
For Banks, the production is undeniable but the explosive play is what defines his career before becoming the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019 as a starting wide receiver.
Has Banks been guilty at times of taking unreasonable risks? Yes, but he did so in an effort to reach the wall of blockers and run away down the field creating another iconic Speedy B sideline sprint igniting Tim Hortons Field into madness.
For better or worse, win or lose, Brandon Banks is the name synonymous with Canadian football special teams play over the last decade and with his career firmly entrenched at receiver now we might have seen his best in the return game.
At least that’s what Banks wants you to think because he’s always ready late in a contest to step off the sideline as a pinch runner of sorts to bring thousands to their feet into the next decade of CFL football.
GET YOUR VOTE ON
Who do you agree with? Has Ferg sold you on Brandon Banks as the best special teamer over the last decade? Or has Berg convinced you that it’s kicker/punter Justin Medlock? Weigh in by commenting and/or tweeting your thoughts to @Fan960Steinberg and @TSN_Marsh.
The winner will be revealed in the next Berg vs. Ferg.