Should Stover Go In Hall of Fame?

Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh think so, saying Stover changed the standard for kickers.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, May 26th, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

The announcement came immediately after beloved kicker Matt Stover officially said he was hanging up his cleats. Stover will enter the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.
 
But the next question is: will Stover be enshrined in Canton?
 
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Famer himself, and Head Coach John Harbaugh, a longtime special teams coach, believe so.
 
But based on the history of the Hall of Fame, it won’t be an easy task. There are 267 members of the NFL Hall of Fame. Only one of them is a pure kicker.
 
If Stover is to get in, he must overcome that barrier.
 
Newsome said he bases whether any player deserves the opportunity on four factors: longevity, winning, accomplishments and work in the community.
 
“Matt measures up to all four of them,” Newsome said. “Hopefully he’ll get a chance to get acknowledged.”
 
Harbaugh said he believes Stover will “lead the charge” for kickers, punters and returners to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
 
“When Matt walks on the field, the game is on the line,” Harbaugh said. “You either win or you lose. That’s a huge part of the game and I don’t know how that wouldn’t be honored and recognized in the Hall of Fame.”
 
The only pure kicker enshrined in Canton is Jan Stenerud, a longtime Kansas City Chief who booted field goals from 1967 and 1985 and went into Canton in 1991.
 
Looking at the statistics, Stover blows Stenerud away.
 
Stenerud finished with 1,699 career points and 373 career field goals in 19 seasons. In 20 years, Stover notched 2,004 career points and 471 successful field goals, both the fourth-most in NFL history. Stenerud converted on 66.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Stover’s career mark is 83.7.
 
Thus, it would seem that Stover should be a shoo-in, right? Not so fast.
 
Stenerud likely got into Canton in 1991 largely because he was a pioneer, the game’s first truly reliable option for three points and the first to boom them in from over 50 yards.
 
Times have changed, and the position’s proficiency has skyrocketed. Now, even the worst NFL kickers have higher field goal percentages than Stenerud’s career mark.
 
So then who gets in? There are seemingly three factors for Stover.
 
Will the Hall of Fame begin to recognize more kickers? Do the voters see Stover as a pioneer in his field? And how does Stover stack up against his peers?
 
For Harbaugh, Stover should get into the Hall of Fame for one similar reason that Stenerud did – that he was a forerunner. Harbaugh said Stover “changed the standard.”
 
“He raised the bar because of his accuracy,” Harbaugh said. “It used to be guys would be making 68, 72 percent.  They were considered successful kickers. Matt set the bar at 85 percent. … If you’re not over 80 percent, you’re not kicking in this league, and Matt’s responsible for that.”
 
If voters don’t concur, Stover’s enshrinement may come down to how he’s compared against his peers, who also have excellent track records.
 
Morten Anderson (1982 – 2007) retired as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,544 points. He isn’t yet eligible to be in the Hall of Fame, as there’s a five-year waiting period, so it’s unknown how he’ll be judged.
 
Gary Anderson (1982 – 2004) is right on Morten Anderson’s heels with 2,434 points and 538 successful field goals (67 more than Stover). He isn’t in the Hall of Fame, despite being eligible.
 
Accuracy, of course, is a factor.
 
Stover was more accurate over his career than both Andersons, ending with an 83.7 field goal percentage. As of now, Stover holds the seventh-best mark in NFL history.
 
But as time passes, more kickers improve on that mark. For example, Ravens Pro Bowler and Stover’s eventual heir, Billy Cundiff, connected on 89.7 percent of his attempts last year. Eight other kickers were ahead of him.
 
Of the six kickers who currently have higher career field goal accuracy than Stover (Nate Kaeding, Mike Vanderjagt, Shayne Graham, Rob Bironas, Robbie Gould and Stephen Gostkowski) five are still playing.
 
So what about clutch kicks?

WILL Matt Stover get in the Hall of Fame?

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Stover hit 14 career game-winners, including a 43-yarder to give Baltimore a 13-10 victory over Tennessee in the 2008 Divisional Playoffs. He sent countless more must-have attempts through the uprights.
 
But what about longtime New England Patriot and current Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri?
 
Vinatieri doesn’t have the stats of his peers, but nailed last-second, game-winning field goals in two Super Bowls. He also hit a 45-yarder in a snowstorm during the 2001 playoffs. Will Vinatieri make it in the Hall?
 
Where Stover stands out from his peers is in his work outdoors.
 
While many kickers of his period have been aided by kicking in climate-controlled domes, Stover battled Cleveland and Baltimore’s elements for 18 seasons with Cleveland being generally regarded as one of the toughest places in the NFL to kick.
 
Stover sunk an NFL-record 445 field goals outdoors and posted the highest open-air field goal per­centage (84.9) in NFL history. Those records have a chance to last, as more stadiums convert from open-air.
 
There are other kickers with more points, better accuracy and more clutch kicks. But do any of them have it all like Stover did during his time?
 
It’s in the voters’ hands now.
 
“I’m not even looking at it,” Stover said. “If I played this game for the honors and for the awards, I don’t think the points and everything would have come like it did. That’s not why you play. If it ends up being that way, great.”

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