I think we can all agree that Adam Vinatieri is one of, if not, the greatest kicker of all-time, and belongs in the Hall of Fame. Time after time, he’s come up clutch, and even at the age of 44, he’s still going strong. Last year, he still made over 87% of his field goals, and didn’t miss an extra point- and this was in his 21st season. He’s third all-time in points scored, third all-time in field goals made, and is on the All-2000s First Team. Safe to say, he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game at his position.
But the difference between him going into the Hall of Fame and being remembered as an awful kicker? One yard.
I’m not even exaggerating here. One yard on a Hail Mary in 1996 is the difference between people remembering Adam Vinatieri as a legend and people remembering him as a nobody. Allow me to explain.
In Vinatieri’s first season with the Patriots back in 1996, he didn’t exactly get off to a good start. And more so than any other position maybe in professional sports, kickers are on a short leash. In week 2, in a 17-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Vinatieri went just 1-for-4 on field goals, missing three kicks. He hit his first field goal of the game (42 yards), then missed the next three, missing from 45, 25, and 47. The 25-yard kick would’ve made it a 2-possession game going into halftime, and the 47-yard kick would’ve given the Patriots the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The following week, the Patriots win 31-0, but Vinatieri had yet another poor game. He missed an extra point, and went just 1-for-2 on field goals, missing a 47-yard field goal. Through the first 3 games of the season, Vinatieri’s field goal percentage was just 42.8%, and he was 3-for-7. He arguably cost the Pats the game in week 2 against Buffalo. Safe to say, Vinatieri was on thin ice.
We go into week 4, and the Patriots are playing the Jaguars. And, yet again, Vinatieri stuggles. The Patriots get on the board first with a touchdown, but Vinatieri misses the extra point. Remember that this is under the old rules where you took the extra point from the 2-yard line, so there’s no reason why you should be missing an extra point in back-to-back weeks. While he hits 3 field goals, they’re all chip shots inside of 30 yards; anybody in the league can make those kicks. He then proceeds to miss a 44-yard field goal later on in the game that would’ve given New England a 2-possession lead.
During the NFL Primetime for this game, Chris Berman flat out said, “I think Bill Parcells has already fired him, except that they had to play the rest of this game.” If you want to watch the Primetime of this game (highly recommended), then here you go.
It’s now 25-25. Keep in mind that Jacksonville already scored once in this game on a Hail Mary. So now in a tie game on the final play of regulation, Mark Brunell throws up a Hail Mary. The Jaguars catch it. It’s short of the end zone by about half a yard.
That half yard made all the difference. Because it’s tied, it goes into overtime. Vinatieri kicks the game-winner from 40 yards out, and the Patriots end up winning it 28-25 in overtime. Obviously, after your kicker makes the game-winning field goal, you’re not going to fire him, so Parcells kept him on the team. For the final 12 games of the regular season, Vinatieri would miss just 2 field goals, and would later establish himself as one of the best kickers in football.
But if the Jaguars caught that touchdown in the end zone instead of half a yard short, then it would’ve been a 32-25 victory for the Jags, and it likely means Vinatieri gets cut. Who knows at that point if he ever plays again, since he did nothing in New England to deserve a second chance.
Submitted May 13, 2017 at 12:04PM by JaguarGator9
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