The New England Patriots lost a legend during 2006’s free agency period Adam Vinatieri, who had served as the organization’s place kicker for the last 10 seasons and played a pivotal role in its first three Super Bowl wins, joined the Indianapolis Colts and left a sizable hole in New England. To fill it, the Patriots took to the draft: they selected Memphis product Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round to take over Vinatieri’s old spot.
Over the next 14 seasons, Gostkowski did just that and along the way was able to step out of the shadow of his legendary predecessor: he contributed to three championships being brought to New England and established himself as one of the premier kickers in all of football — just like Vinatieri. But while he did not make the highlight-reel kicks that cemented the future Hall of Famer’s legacy, Gostkowski was as steady as a kicker as any in the NFL.
His numbers certainly reflect this. Not only did he make 87.4% of his field goal and 98.3% of his extra point attempts during the regular season, he also hit a combined 93.4% of his kicks in the playoffs: Gostkowski was successful on 88.6% of his field goal tries and 95.7% of his PATs. With the exception of that last number, he was therefore a more accurate kicker than Vinatieri — and of a similar importance to the continuation of the Patriots’ dynasty.
On Monday, however, his run in New England came to an end: the club parted ways with the 36-year-old, who had ended the 2019 season on the sidelines due to a hip injury, and will now have to find yet another kicker to replace another legend. Doing so will not be easy, but Gostkowski illustrated that it is still possible to come in and fill as big a void as the one created upon Vinatieri’s departure 14 years ago.
His ability to do that in 2006 was also lauded by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who released a statement on Tuesday in honor of Gostkowski’s contributions to his team:
I have had the privilege of coaching some of the best specialists in the NFL and Stephen Gostkowski is one of them.
Stephen had many highlights over his 14 years as a Patriot and one of the most impressive was the way it began, when he succeeded the most accomplished kicker in NFL history. For some, this may have been too difficult a challenge. But from his rookie year, Stephen exuded a maturity and confidence that demonstrated he was up to the task. He made several crucial kicks his rookie year and established a top level of performance and consistency for years and years to come.
Stephen is a great teammate who made outstanding contributions over a decade of championship football.