There’s no easy way for the Baltimore Ravens to make this decision. They can’t ask their parents to change their mind and let them bring another friend. They may have hoped that Tucker could be just a call away should Cundiff’s 2011 struggles last into the start of the 2012 season, but that situation appears unlikely with Tucker’s continued preseason success now spreading onto tape and making him a likely option for other teams struggling with their kicking options.
Many fans and analysts have suggested the team take the easy way out and keep both kickers on the roster. It would be a more understandable concept if not for the fact that GM Ozzie Newsome and company are already struggling to trim a roster of over 60 legitimate former or future NFL players to a group of just 53.
It’s an awkward situation. As of right now, most who have watched the competition on a day to day basis in Owings Mills (as well as M&T Bank Stadium, Annapolis and the Georgia Dome) would concede Tucker ahead by a small margin. The greatest argument against Cundiff winning the job would be his title game miss, but a year after setting the record for most touchbacks in a single season he failed to boot the ball through the back of the end zone with the same regularity despite a five yard advantage to start. He also struggled with longer kicks, the same argument made against Stover before ’09.
Much like the last three seasons, the organization’s expectations start with winning the AFC North but don’t stop short of winning the Super Bowl. While the argument that Tucker could prove to be an excellent long-term choice as a potential “franchise” kicker, it does not guarantee that with the game on the lines against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 he’d be ready to deliver a winning kick. Tucker supporters would point out that Cundiff already had the opportunity to do the same thing (in an even bigger situation) and failed.
I said after the loss in Foxborough that I would not have crushed the team if they had decided Cundiff’s crucial miss was a “fireable offense.” I’ve also never jumped on the #TeamTucker bandwagon I’ve seen all over Twitter in recent weeks. I thought it was interesting that the team did NOT allow Tucker to attempt a 57 yard try when a 3rd quarter drive against the Lions was bogged down at Detroit’s 40 yard line. He had regularly trying similar kicks in practice and before the game. I wish I had gone to the game to ask Harbaugh about the decision.
Perhaps the team was more afraid he’d make the kick than he’d miss.
Tucker wasn’t supposed to be presenting this much of a problem for Cundiff. The competition has proven to be just that awkward.
But if it means anything, I remember having a great time that day at ESPNZone.
(Cover photo combination credit Baltimore Ravens.)