A kick in the nuts
Arguably the biggest hero in the history of New England football is reportedly leaving the Patriots for the hated Indianapolis Colts. WEEI, ESPN Boston Radio and ESPN's Len Pasquarelli are all reporting that Adam Vinatieri has agreed to a deal, in principal, with the Colts.
The righting has been on the wall for weeks. The Pats passed on "Franchising" Adam and allowed him to go forward into free agency. Pats owner Jr. Jonathan Kraft was interviewed saying that if it was up to him Adam would be coming back, but that "he was signed as an undrafted free agent" implying that there is another golden foot out there. On sports radio today rumblings began that Vinatieri had fired his agent. ESPN Boston's Mike Felger even went so far as to say that the move was very bad for the Patriots and that he expected Vinatieri to sign soon with someone else. Felger commented that Vinatieri's former agent was "in bed" with the Patriots and that his new agent was not a Patriots favorite (the new agent was also the man who just arranged for Willie McGinest to sign with Cleveland).
The most frustrating thing about Adam's departure is the fact that the Patriots, seen as the NFL's smartest team, allowed him to leave for chump change, looking more like the Bruins than a franchise that has won 3 of the past 5 Super Bowls. What it comes down to is that the Patriots have decided to treat every player equally and that they can't go giving one guy top dollar then expect to sign anyone else for the discount price. Vinatieri, however, could have signed with the Pats as the highest paid kicker in the league and it still would have only been around 3 million per year. With the new league salary cap the Pats could have easily worked it out. Instead it appears they feared the way paying a player top dollar would effect later signings, including Richard Seymour.
Your Uncle Buck has tuned into Vinatieri game winning kicks on almost a week to week basis since he signed with the team in 1996. He has hit 99.9 percent of his game winning kicks and has only missed 4 indoors, all at Houston in 2 games. He won Super Bowl XXXVI at the gun and won Super Bowl XXXVIII with 4 seconds left. His game winning kick in the Snow against Oakland was called "The greatest play in the history of the NFL" by Sports Illustrated's Peter King, and many say his 41-yarder against the Titans in below zero temperatures was harder. His 5 field goals against the Colts in the 2003 AFC title game set a record and made the difference in the 24-14 win. He once ran down Hershel Walker in Dallas and threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown in St. Louis...And all of that wasn't worth it to the Patriots, who have clearly outsmarted themselves. The NFL may be a cutthroat business and while the releases of Lawyer Milloy in 2003, Willie McGinest and David Givens more recently have appeared cold they at least proved like the right move in motive...This baffles the mind and makes UB's blood boil.
So where do the Pats go now? To Mike Vandershank? How can the team possibly say they are making an upgrade on this clown when his pressure kick experience has included a miss at the gun in New England on Monday Night Football and a major muff in last year's AFC Divisional Title game against Pittsburgh? The only option Patriots fans have now is to hope that Johnny Boy Kraft is right and they can pull another diamond in the rough to make the impossible happen...UB can't think of any one accurate enough to hit that mark...Well, there is this one guy...