Adam Vinatieri was the best in NFL history to kick a football through uprights, but he isn’t that today.
As with all athletes, skills erode and the ability to compete at the highest level wanes. That Vinatieri is still as good as he is at almost 47 years of age is remarkable, but that doesn’t make him the right guy to give the Colts their best chance to win games.
Through nine games of this brutal season for Vinatieri, he has missed 11 kicks and failed to provide game-winning accuracy in three losses for the 5-4 Colts. Those 11 misses are tied for the most Vinatieri has missed in a full season, and lead the NFL by two.
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The truth is that Vinatieri, despite his extraordinary career, is no longer a reliable option. And if Colts GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich make the decision to keep him for the game this Sunday against the Jaguars, the misses no longer belong to Vinatieri.
Ballard and Reich will own them.
I had a general manager who was fond of saying, “When those you manage make a mistake the first time, it belongs to them. If they make that mistake again, it belongs to you because you didn’t correct it properly. If they make it a third time, I own it.” That’s as true in the NFL as it is in radio.
The statistics say that Vinatieri’s ability to convert field goals and extra points has regressed to where he is now the least reliable kicker in the NFL. Ballard and Reich love the man and his legacy – as do fans – but they must acknowledge an immediate upgrade at kicker is required. If they don’t, future losses because of missed kicks will belong to them.
That’s how the NFL works. It’s a meritocracy where missing only one kick in 2014 is a nice memory but utterly meaningless five years later. All that matters today is Vinatieri’s 11 misses, as well as the misses to come if the Colts fail to do what needs to be done to give the team its best chance to win on Sunday and the following six weeks.
Vinatieri limping to the end of his usefulness as a professional athlete is sad, sure, but that’s the way it works for the lucky ones who are allowed to stick around earning millions just a little bit too long.
Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and countless others tried and failed to overcome age. Vinatieri is in good company as the best who ever did something but can’t anymore. Ballard and Reich recognizing it doesn’t make them villains – it makes them effective leaders.
Today should be the day that Vinatieri makes his announcement. Time has come. Everyone sees it. Hopefully, Ballard and Reich have the intestinal fortitude to do what’s right for the Colts before the misses and losses stack too high to be overcome.