Is it another brilliant move by the Belichick-Pioli regime? Or the last Jenga tile removed?
Fear not, my flock! I am here to tell you that this is not the breaking of the Seventh Seal! The Apocalypse is not at hand! Nay, all remains well in Patriot Nation, in fact.
I know what you're thinking (as Tom Selleck's character would say on "Magnum P.I."), "Are you crazy? Half the team is gone, among them the second of a handful of colossal key players of the recent dynasty! All is not well!"
Photo Courtesy: Reuters
Oh, ye of little faith, have we not trod this road many times before? Drew Bledsoe. Lawyer Milloy. Ty Law. When Bledsoe went to Buffalo, the Bills games were hot tickets for a couple years before we collectively realized we had his number. And after Milloy joined him, there was a minor fluke before it was paid back in spades just months later. And without a slew of devastating injuries last season, Law's departure would have gone completely unheeded; as it was, mentioned little enough.
So what makes Adam Vinatieri any different? Why pay him double his worth when you've built a juggernaut by avoiding just that?
I know it hurts. It always hurts when someone turns his back on you. Vinatieri made three or four of the great kicks of our time -- of any time -- and without them, maybe there would be no dynasty as we know it. But AC/DC posed the question of the day, "Who made who?" Did Vinatieri make the dynasty? Or was he merely the right man in the right place at the right time amid something larger?
After the Snow Bowl versus Oakland, the last game at Foxboro Stadium, and after Super Bowl XXXVI, Vinatieri was revered as a god. What has he done for us lately (ignoring, of course, the hilt protruding from our collective spine)? Even in Super Bowl XXXVIII, where he again kicked the game-winning field goal and solidified his superhuman status, he missed two earlier field goals.
And 2005 was far from stellar. Eighty percent on 25 field goals. A couple misses when they counted. Oh-for-two from beyond 50 yards. Only 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) from 40-49 yards. And while his kickoffs seemed to improve last year, he's never been near the top of the league in that skill.
Am I going to miss him? Yeah, of course. He was one of us. But History can change things. Time will tell how nostalgic we feel down the road. Let's face it, we have no love for Benedict Arnold.
Did he (Vinatieri) do the right thing? That's debatable. I think whatever he makes under contract is more than offset by the endorsement deals he had in New England that he probably won't have in Indianapolis. Like I said, he was a god around here, and he earned endorsements deserving of a god. Will that pot be as sweet in the heartland?
On the other hand, he will be playing primarily indoors, where he has thrived during his career. Much less cold weather to deal with. A much better surface, especially for kickoffs. Quite possibly a much longer career, which could make up for the lost endorsements. And Indy is good enough that Vinatieri could become a deity there as well -- if he hasn't started losing it.
I still have a hard time stomaching leaving behind a home and teammates with whom you've experienced so much. Ask Milloy. Ask Law. We can ask McGinest in a year or two.
Did he (Belichick and/or Pioli) do the right thing? Based on track record, he's innocent until proven guilty. Forget Belichick's "mind." He has been regarded for many years as the keenest judge of talent possibly ever. Did he see something that indicates Vinatieri just "didn't have it" or at least isn't worth the boatload of money he was asking for? Otherwise, why wouldn't they have pinned him with the franchise tag again, as they did to protect him the two previous years?
I don't think Paul Edinger is the answer, and I think Mike Vanderjagt is the anti-Vinatieri. Maybe Belichick and Pioli have their eye on a kicker in the draft, another undiscovered treasure as Vinatieri was himself when he replaced Matt Barr in what was considered a bold move at the time.
Vinatieri was 17th in field goal percentage last season. That means more than half of the kickers in the league were better. Twenty kickers make a field goal of 50 yards or better (although Vinatieri did make a 49-yarder). Sadly, Vinatieri is generally inaccurate from beyond 40 yards, and he hasn't made a truly clutch kick in a couple years. It's the reason the Patriots chose to pooch punt or try to convert fourth down more often than attempt field goals in 2005. And, heck, even Doug Flutie can connect on short drop kicks.
There remains as good a core of key players in New England as there is anywhere in the league. We have seen time and time again how this front office has provided the tools for our boys to compete and excel since the turn of the millennium. Is there any reason to believe they've completely gone bonkers? Or is there enough of a record to soothe your anxieties and wait until September rolls around to pass your judgments?
That's what faith is, my friends. In Bill I Trust.
Tom's opinion of the Vinatieri situation ...
This poll is closed
proves he's drinking the Kool-Aid.
makes me wonder about his true sanity.
is way off, and his argument is senseless.
is way off, but at least he makes an argument.
may be right, may be wrong.
sounds pretty well on-target.
... wait. There was an opinion in there?