Matt Stover's retirement announcement today with the Baltimore Ravens brought to mind Bill Belichick's history with evaluating kickers. It was Belichick who gave Stover his first chance to kick in regular-season games -- in 1991 with the Cleveland Browns.
"In '93, my numbers started taking off. That's when Belichick stuck with me," Stover once told Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
For Stover, that was the start of a productive career that stretched into 2009. Belichick had some inside knowledge on Stover from the 1990 season with the New York Giants; Belichick was defensive coordinator, Stover a rookie free agent on the team's injured reserve list.
That wouldn't be the only time Belichick had identified and/or developed a young kicker who would go on to big things.
In 2005, he signed Penn State's Robbie Gould as a rookie free agent. The Patriots had Adam Vinatieri at the time, and Gould ultimately landed with the Bears, where he's become one of the league's top kickers.
Belichick once said he regretted letting Gould get away, in part because the team had an opening the following year when Vinatieri signed with the Colts as a free agent.
That had the Patriots back in the kicker market, and the team drafted Memphis' Stephen Gostkowski in the 2006 fourth round. Gostkowski is one of the league's top kickoff men and has proven to be accurate on field goals as well, capably filling the Vinatieri void.
Kicker is one of those positions where if you get it right, it could be solidified for a decade, or perhaps longer.
Belichick's track record in evaluating the position reflects that.