Normally Bernd handles the Patriots Past, but this was too good to pass up. WFAN's Mike Francesca spoke with The Ringer's Bill Simmons about the time former New England Patriots head coach Bill Parcells almost cut kicker Adam Vinatieri back in 1996.
Vinatieri joined the Patriots in 1996 as an undrafted player at the same time that current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick joined Parcells as the assistant head coach. While we know now that Vinatieri is one of the most accomplished kickers in the history of the game, the start of his career was far from perfect.
"He wasn't the kicker then that he is now," Belichick said back in 2014 when Vinatieri was named 1st Team All Pro at the age of 42.
Vinatieri missed three straight field goals against the Bills in week 2 from 45-yards, 25-yards, and 47-yards, and the Patriots also missed a fake pass on a field goal from the Bills 11-yard line when Vinatieri couldn't get open and punter and holder Tom Tupa threw an incomplete pass to tight end Ben Coates in the end zone.
The next week against the Cardinals, Vinatieri connected on two extra point attempts, before missing one right before the half. Vinatieri then missed a 47-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter and Parcells ran out of patience, according to Francesca.
The Patriots held a 28-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the game, but Parcells sent Vinatieri out to take a 31-yard field goal with an "ultimatum: convert this field goal or find a new home."
"He told him, 'You better make this field goal,'" Francesca learned from a conversation with Parcells, via the NY Daily News.
Vinatieri converted the kick and kept his job, converting 44 of 46 extra point attempts and 26 of 31 field goal attempts for the rest of the year. He also made this absurd tackle to bring down Cowboys running back Herschel Walker towards the end of the season, causing Parcells to declare, "You're not a kicker, you're a football player."
Vinatieri is a 20-year veteran with six Super Bowl appearances (1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009), a litany of clutch kicks, and a host of near-records that will hopefully fall in the coming seasons.
Vinatieri has appeared in 30 playoff games (2nd only to Tom Brady at 31). His 503 field goals made rank 3rd all time, behind Morten Andersen (565) and Gary Anderson (538) and Vinatieri could break the record with two or three more seasons in the league. He needs 292 points to take the NFL record from Andersen, and he could accomplish that with three more years in the league.
Coincidentally, the Colts agreed to a 2-year extension with Vinatieri in March, keeping him under contract through 2017. While Vinatieri will have spent 12 seasons with the Colts at the end of this contract, compared to 10 with the Patriots, the kicker will forever be a part of Patriots lore.
We'll see you in Canton, Adam.