The 5 best kickers in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have an incredible legacy at the specialists positions, including the first great kicker in the NFL. Let's rank the franchises's best.
Jan 11, 1970; New Orleans, LA, USA; FILE PHOTO;  Kansas City Chiefs kicker #3 Jan Stenerud during Super Bowl VI against the Minnesota Vikings at Tulane Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Vikings 23-7 giving the AFL their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl victory. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports © Copyright 1970 Malcolm Emmons
Jan 11, 1970; New Orleans, LA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Kansas City Chiefs kicker #3 Jan Stenerud during Super Bowl VI against the Minnesota Vikings at Tulane Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Vikings 23-7 giving the AFL their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl victory. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports © Copyright 1970 Malcolm Emmons / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are known for several things in NFL history, including the ability to champion greatness at various positions from running back to tight end to pass-rusher. And when all is said and done on the current run of success, quarterback will be synonymous with the franchise as well.

One position at which the Chiefs have fared better than perhaps anyone else is kicker—of all things—going back to some of the franchise's earliest days. In fact it's hard to talk about historic kickers in the NFL without referencing the Chiefs early and often. Of course, this is also a franchise and fan base that's overly familiar with abysmal performances at the position as well.

How do the franchise's greats stack up against each other? How much should modern metrics factor into the equation? Here's our rundown of the best five kickers in Chiefs history!

Criteria for selection

It should be clear that any ranking of players is going to be somewhat subjective despite the use of statistics to largely make the argument for one player over another. However, the stats also make this list fairly straightforward.

When assessing the best kickers in Chiefs history, it's important to note some of the career records, but a few important historical angles and aspects are also vital to remember. Some of these aren't just numbers from a boxscore; they're remembered as dramatic moments when we all held our collective breath wondering where the ball would sail.

Given the career numbers and the franchise's context, we've got the top five kickers in Chiefs history for you.

The best kickers in Chiefs history

5. Ryan Succop

Let's be clear about this spot and the next one: You can easily flip Ryan Succop and Pete Stoyanovich, and no one would bat an eye.

Succop is one of four kickers in Chiefs history with more than 100 field goals made, and the other three occupy the top three spots on this list. In fact, if Succop had remained with the team any longer, he'd likely be firmly in the fourth spot and perhaps vying for an even higher ranking.

As it is, Succop's place on this list celebrates the vision that Chiefs GM Scott Pioli had for him when he drafted him out of South Carolina in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. K.C. handed him the kicking job from the outset and enjoyed consistent accuracy from Succop for each of the next five seasons.

From there, the Tennessee Titans leaned on him to anchor their kicking game for the next six seasons before he landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2020-22 to close out his career (and win a Super Bowl). That's a nice reward for a steady kicker who is an outstanding postseason performer with 16 of 17 field-goal conversions in the playoffs.

4. Pete Stoyanovich

It was January 7, 1996 when the Kansas City Chiefs imploded.

Coming off a glowing 13-win season, Steve Bono and the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts in the opening round of the 1995 postseason with high expectations. After 60 minutes of game play, however, the wheels came completely off, leaving Chiefs Kingdom with their single biggest stomach punch in franchise history: a 10-7 home loss that left Arrowhead in dismay.

While the team's kicker wasn't the only one to blame (the Chiefs turned the ball over four times that day), Lin Elliott (otherwise known as "the kicker who shall not be named") missed field goals of 35, 39, and 42 yards that would have tied the game, including one at the end of regulation. Just like that, a strong defense with Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith was left to wonder what might have been.

Why is all of this important? Because the Chiefs made sure it would not happen again the following season by trading for Pete Stoyanovich of the Miami Dolphins, a popular player who cried when receiving the news. Stoyanovich, at the time, was the fourth-most-accurate kicker in NFL history, and he would go on to be an ideal salve for a wounded fan base.

Stoyanovich converted 81 percent of his field-goal attempts in nearly five seasons with the Chiefs, and he even led the league by making 26 of 27 FGA in 1997. The two-time All-Pro is best remembered as a Dolphin, but he was the perfect acquisition for the Chiefs at a truly sore spot on the roster.

3. Harrison Butker

If modern fans wanted to argue for a higher position for Harrison Butker on this list, they'd have a real case. That's because Butker has been nothing short of sensational since he first arrived in Kansas City as one of Brett Veach's savviest moves yet.

At one point, the Carolina Panthers made Butker available by sticking their former seventh-round selection on the practice squad. Veach's claim allowed the Chiefs to promote Butker to their active roster in the wake of a groin injury to Cairo Santos. It didn't take long to realize Santos was never going to get his job back—at least in Kansas City.

Butker has been a model of consistency for most of his seven seasons in K.C. so far, and his blend of power and accuracy has positioned him as one of the best in the game. If not for the shadow of Justin Tucker in the AFC (with the Baltimore Ravens), there's no doubt Butker would be swimming in Pro Bowl honors.

In 2023 alone, Butker converted all five 50-plus-yard attempts and 89 percent of all field goals. He did so without missing a single extra point—a vital scoring machine during a year in which the offense sputtered all season long. Do the Chiefs win their third championship in the modern era without Butker? We don't think so.

2. Nick Lowery

Speaking of a player who could be ranked higher, Nick Lowery lays claim to the top spot on the Chiefs' all-time scoring list. That alone will likely cement him atop this list for some longtime fans who remember watching Lowery make one game-winning field goal after another during his impressive tenure with the team. That's also totally understandable.

Lowery deserves loads of respect for his durability and consistency in a career that started slower than fans might realize. He tried out for the New York Jets after going undrafted out of Dartmouth in 1978. The New England Patriots called upon him to fill in for an injury, but he was back on the waiver wire within weeks. From there came failed tryouts for six more teams—Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Diego, Washington, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay.

When K.C. called, it was looking to replace Jan Stenerud in 1980, and Lowery somehow nailed the tryout. He wouldn't leave for another 13 seasons, not until he re-signed with the Jets in 1994. Upon his retirement, he'd set the records for most field goals made and the highest accuracy in NFL history—not just team history. There's a real HOF case to be made here as well when taking in the context of his era, but suffice it to say, he's a member of the Chiefs' Ring of Honor and second overall on our list.

1. Jan Stenerud

While the arguments for Lowery and even Butker are valid for this top spot, the truth is that Jan Stenerud will likely reign supreme here when all is said and done unless Butker is able to stay healthy and consistent for several more seasons. That's because a man who was known as the NFL's first truly great kicker isn't so easily surpassed.

Stenerud's story is as great as his on-field production: a Norwegian student at a university in Montana on a skiing scholarship who was spotted by a basketball coach kicking a football in his downtime. The results were so impressive that he joined the football team and became the Chiefs' third-round pick in the 1966 draft.

Stenerud would reinvent the kicking position during his incredible career in K.C. and beyond. His first NFL kick was a successful conversion that wowed everyone—a 54-yard attempt during an era in which such distances were suspect coaching calls. At the end of his career, he became the first person in NFL history to earn All-Pro honors in three different decades.

In the end, Stenerud put together such an excellent career that the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed him as its first true specialist. He played 19 total seasons in the NFL, including 13 with the Chiefs, and retired as No. 2 on the NFL's all-time points list (behind George Blanda). Most importantly, he came through with several clutch kicks in Kansas City's first Super Bowl victory in 1969.