Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Could the inactive list block Stover's return to the Ravens?

I have blogged in the past about the lunacy of the NFL’s inactive list. It’s a joke and in my mind there’s no other way to look at it.

Those who defend it will tell you that it’s the league’s way of creating competitive balance on game day. I say it’s a way of rewarding cheap, mediocre scouting departments that can’t provide competent depth to their rosters (see the Cincinnati Bengals).

Back to that competitive balance “concept” again...

The idea I’m told is to help teams field 45 players who are relatively healthy. Each roster throughout the league will have players on their 53 man roster who are injured but not necessarily injured enough to place on injured reserve. Trimming to 45 players on game day theoretically preserves competitive balance – the thinking being that it’s easier to field 45 relatively healthy players than it is 53.

Sorry, I’m not buying…

Injuries are part of the game and this inactive list has no place IN the game.

If we consider the team nearest and dearest to our heart, the Ravens have an embarrassing excess of riches at linebacker and arguably on the defensive line as well. The problem is they can’t keep them all and as a result the team will have to part with some decent players. That’s not exactly a bad problem but here’s the rub for me…

When John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome along with the coaches and scouts pair down their roster to 53 by this time next week, the 45 man game day roster will influence their 53 man roster decisions. And there’s one move they are likely to make that could have lasting negative implications – keeping only 1 kicker.

So far the battle between Steven Hauschka and Graham Gano is pretty close. Most say Hauschka has the edge yet from the practices I observed, Gano looked best and in my opinion he has greater upside. That said, neither is handling the pressures of the competition all that well and if you can’t handle that kind of heat, how can we be confident that they can deal with the pressures of hitting a game winning field goal on the road in the cold during the playoffs?

The answer is we can’t!

Enter Matt Stover…

If the Ravens could field 53 players on game day, there’s little doubt that the team would keep the distance kicker and have Matt Stover around just in case that aforementioned pressure kick becomes a reality. And chances are if the Ravens are in the thick of it in December as most observers think, that pressure kick is as certain as Brett Favre changing his mind.

But the inactive list notwithstanding, shouldn’t the Ravens consider both kickers anyway? Detractors will say that the team needs the depth on special teams but if your deep kicker can put the ball in the end zone with his kickoffs on a consistent basis like Gano can, doesn’t that take the pressure off special teams?

Eventually the Ravens will have to develop a young kicker. Matt Stover was once a young kicker. Why not do so while an insurance policy wearing No. 3 is sitting on the bench?

The Ravens could send out Gano for kickoffs and any field goal attempt beyond 40 yards. They could test Gano’s ability to perform under pressure gradually, say against weaker opponents or in non-conference games. Then next year, the team would be able to cleanly and confidently sever the Stover cord.

Can they really afford to make that cut now?

Is that player who might make 10 special teams tackles over the course of a season really as important as a kicker who can nail a pressure packed 38 yard field goal on the road in Pittsburgh?

Can’t they find someone else on the roster to make those 10 special teams tackles? Wouldn’t it be easier to find THAT player than a kicker with ice in his veins?

Quite naturally the Ravens don’t want to release a player that could potentially be the next Adalius Thomas or Bart Scott and consequently they are more likely to lean towards keeping one kicker instead of two. And if they are going with one kicker, it won’t be Stover – at least not to start the season.

Speaking of which, the Ravens host the Chiefs on Opening Day and chances are that game won’t come down to a field goal hence no need for Stover. It’s unlikely that Ozzie Newsome will let Stover’s cell number escape his reach until he’s very comfortable or until Stover is picked up by another team.

If Stover remains unclaimed it behooves the Ravens not to sign him prior to Opening Day. That way should they need Stover later on he would likely only be paid the prorated portion of the NFL minimum ($835,000 for players of Stover’s tenure) and they could release Stover at any time without having to pay him for the entire season. That is a cap friendly arrangement.

Now if the NFL would come to their collective senses and blow up the inactive list rules, this decision might not be so difficult for the Ravens.

But that won’t happen thanks to midget-minded owners with dusty wallets like the Bengals’ Mike Brown.
Photo by Sabina Moran.


Jerry B said...

Can't argue with your logic relative to the "inactive" list, TL, but it probably wouldn't matter where Stover's concerned. From all reports, his leg strength rather than his accuracy has done him in because a.)he lacks the ability to kickoff and, b.)his field goal range has diminished. So, like it or not, it's time to replace him and hope that the offense will be more prolific in the "red zone" so that there won't be as much pressure to win by field goal!

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 9/2/09 It is my understanding that the Ravens and Matt Stover could not come to a financial agreement. Also, some times ..its just time for a change!
I did not attend enough of the practices for Kickers to evaluate both Gano and Hauchka? I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. You are right on about the INACTIVE LIST. However, its much better than the 33 man Roster back in the Old Johnny Unitas COLT DAYS...