The retirement of Matt Stover has triggered an ample amount of discussion about Mr. Reliability’s place in the history of the Baltimore Ravens and even the NFL for that matter. His greatness has been exulted and some even believe that Stover is worthy of a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That topic is a debatable one for another day but suffice it to say that his induction into the league’s hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio is a long-shot. Enshrinement is reserved for those who dominated the game in their respective eras and while Stover has achieved folklore status here in the Land of Pleasant Living, he never really set himself apart from his side-winder kicking peers in a meaningful way to justify HOF status. Indirectly his Q-Rating in the eyes of Ravens fans was heightened as a result of a points-challenged offense.
But that argument aside (and we’ll revisit this prior to Stover’s induction into the Ravens Ring of Honor), where does Stover rank among the Ravens greats?
Few would argue that the two greatest Ravens to don the purple and black are Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, both of whom are lead pipe locks to become Hall of Famers. A crowning achievement for the organization is that the Ravens can boast that their first two organizational draft picks EVER are enshrined in Canton, OH. That will happen when Ray Lewis is HOF eligible. No other NFL team can make such a claim.
But after Ogden (who make no mistake about it is No. 2), who is the No. 3 all-time Raven?
Some will make a case for Stover and while it’s a reasonable choice it’s also the wrong choice.
Yes he was uncommonly reliable and statistically he’s among the all-time greats in terms of accuracy. He was also extremely vital to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl winning season. Inside the 45 yard line Stover was about as certain as death and taxes.
But No. 3 overall?
How many of you complained about Stover’s lack of depth on kickoffs or his inability to nail a lengthy field goal? And what about Brian Billick, frustrated by Stover’s lack of pop, seriously considered replacing Stover with Joe Nedney? Trust me, I’m not complaining about Matt Stover. I’d take another 15 years of Stover reliability. It’s just not enough for me to rank him No. 3.
So if Stover isn’t worthy of the three hole upon the pedestal that is the equivalent of Ravens’ Mt. Rushmore, who is?
Many will argue that Art Modell deserves the No. 3 spot or at the very least a spot among the four stone-face placards. Modell backers will argue that without Art’s decision to move to Baltimore this debate wouldn’t even exist nor would this website. But did Art really have a choice in leaving Cleveland? Didn’t financial distress really motivate his move? And given the sweetheart deal the Maryland Stadium Authority was offering could he really afford to say no?
Yes Art Modell is a great man to whom we are indebted for our football Jones BUT does taking the money and running make him a worthy recipient of the placard? He’ll always have a soft spot in the collective heart of Baltimore but really the best thing he ever did organizationally was to back away and allow Ozzie Newsome and his staff to rebuild the franchise.
Others will campaign for Brian Billick who clearly was the answer when he burst onto the scene like a banshee at the perfect time in the team’s history. Billick’s guidance during a tumultuous but ultimately amazingly successful 2000 season was nothing less than a masterful stroke. But thereafter he fumbled often and the best years of a terrific defense were lost because of his stubbornness and inept offense.
Arguments will be made in support of Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, Mike McCrary, Steve Bisciotti, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason. Some will put on their brave faces and campaign for Tony Siragusa and even Trent Dilfer for those No. 3 or No. 4 pedestals. And while these players certainly earned our respect, their contributions and even those of Matt Stover pale in comparison to those of Ed Reed.
To call Ed Reed a free safety is to cheapen what he’s done and how he’s change the game. Ed Reed hasn’t just played safety, he’s covered a secondary and is the quintessential defensive playmaker – a defensive game changer. His uncanny ability to patrol centerfield, to anticipate, to show up instinctively in the most unexpected of places has earned him the respect of his peers and of course his teammates.
He is the focal point of opposing quarterbacks and any team that takes on the Baltimore Ravens does so with at least one thing in mind – let’s not let this 7 time Pro Bowler, 5 time All Pro and the 2004 AFC Defensive Player of the year beat us.
But sometimes despite the best laid plans, Ed Reed gets his way. It’s nearly inevitable.
Just like Reed assuming the No. 3 spot atop the Ravens Mt. Rushmore.