FanDuel - WFBC

November 27, 2006

Dallas Cowboys Boot Vanderjagt: The most accurate kicker in NFL history was cut today, eight months after signing a three-year, $5.5 million deal with a $2.5 million signing bonus. Vanderjagt missed 5 out of 18 field goals this season, some hopeless from the moment they left the Vanderfoot. He's been replaced with Martin Gramatica.

posted by rcade to football at 05:35 PM - 42 comments

I think this proves the dangers of spending millions on a kicker. However, I think Vanderjagt will rebound and kick well for another team.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:42 PM on November 27

They are have to pay him for the entire season anyway, why not just keep him on your roster?

posted by bperk at 05:51 PM on November 27

It seems obvious Parcells thinks this team can win a Super Bowl with a reliable kicker and Vanderjagt is no longer that guy. I think it sends a nice little message to the rest of the team.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 05:59 PM on November 27

Huh. I don't know whether to surprised or not. A former colleague of mine invited me to the Cowboys/Colts game two weeks ago, when Mike missed a FG wide right and nailed (another) post. The crowd, who'd been tailgating for some 5-6 hours by the time kickoff rolled around, was merciless on him. It was all Vanderchoke this and Vandershank that. After the miss right before halftime, a drunk and disgruntled fan a few rows back of me whizzed a plastic beer bottle at Mike, missing him, but landing within a few feet. Security pounced on a guy in the row in front of me and had a cop usher him out. I felt bad for the guy. Right around the end of the third quarter, he returned. I guess security camera footage cleared him. Anyhow, Mike spent most of the second half on the sideline away from the rest of the team and the coaching staff, halfheartedly kicking into those net contraptions kickers use. I'm not sure anyone on the sidelines said a word to him. I know what you're saying YYM, but the Cowboys have had a revolving door of bumpkin kickers over the past few seasons, and the local media and fans were really hard on Jerry, telling him that if only they signed a star kicker, all would be well. In a very rare move, Jerry listened, and the Cowboys got burned by a fading star with haunting memories from the previous year's playoffs that he apparently couldn't get over. If Gramatica doesn't work out, maybe they can get Jose "Baby" Cortez back from Indy's practice squad.

posted by Ufez Jones at 06:00 PM on November 27

Not that I see all that many of his kicks, but ever since his horrible shank at the end of last season in the playoffs, it seems Vanderjagt has had that left-to-right hook on his kicks. It almost looks like a golfer's slice. Who the hell knows. I hate kickers anyways.

posted by dyams at 06:16 PM on November 27

Vanderjadt's 72.2% FG percentage is awful. Gramatica is 76.7% over eight seasons. He is 99% on PAT's. Not a bad move. I agree with Texan that it is a nice message to send, very Parcells-like. This is not the most talented team of all time but with Parcells massaging the weaknesses and managing the egos this squad could go deep into the playoffs.

posted by Termite at 06:38 PM on November 27

That could be one of the fastest falls I have ever seen. I watched the Bucs on thnxgiving and wondered what ever became of Gramatica.

posted by pcbenedict at 06:44 PM on November 27

It's kinda hard for me to figure out if this makes sense, because it almost seems like sending your starters to the glue factory has kinda come into vogue lately. Some prominent injuries made for radical roster changes early in the season; then there was the Romo move, and now I almost get the feeling that there are...probably not coaches, but maybe owners, who believe that the sidelines are full of hidden gems who will throw four-TD games (or the equivalent for their position) if they only get their shot. Not, mind you, that they'd ever express it like that, but I think a starter's position in the NFL is probably more insecure right now than it ever has been at this point in the season.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:19 PM on November 27

Vanderjagt was an incredible kicker for the Colts for a long time -- one of the best who ever played the position. I don't understand how one big miss in the playoffs turned him into Lin Elliot.

posted by rcade at 08:38 PM on November 27

A Vandershank breakdown. Written when he was still a Colt.

posted by apoch at 10:09 PM on November 27

They are have to pay him for the entire season anyway, why not just keep him on your roster? I'm pretty sure that a team can only suit 53 players. Who wants to suit two place kickers when you could suit a deserving player. Besides I think that this is a mental thing for Vanderjagt. I am glad they cut him. I would rather see some other kicker miss a few field goals than see vanderspank miss them.

posted by sgtcookzane at 11:12 PM on November 27

The man has lost it. The last kick that he made for Dallas, saw him coming off the field and putting his fingers together to show how close he came to missing this one. Why can't a pro adjust. 90% of his kicks was to the right. You can take a high school kicker and work with him on coreccting that type of mistake. I think no kicker is worth that much money. Jerry Jones you wasted many bucks here.

posted by grampsw at 04:49 AM on November 28

Why can't a pro adjust. 90% of his kicks was to the right. The end of the article points out that he is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. I think he must know what he is doing but has hit a bad patch. He just has to make his next 16 kicks in a row to get back up to 85% and earn that bonus in his contract. I guess it's over for him though.

posted by gspm at 07:36 AM on November 28

He stunk it up in Dallas. I can't see much fault in the move - the performance warranted it. Vanderjagt - despite being a good Canadian boy (as we are so fond of saying) - seemed to me to need a little humbling. However, since kickers can last forever, we probably haven't seen the last of him. Guys have lost it and found it again - and then kicked for another ten years. If he's smart, he'll find himself a dome.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:46 AM on November 28

If he's smart, he'll find himself a dome. Finding the one on top of his shoulders would be a start.

posted by mjkredliner at 09:30 AM on November 28

rcade wrote I don't understand how one big miss in the playoffs turned him into Lin Elliot. He also robbed Jim Mora, Sr. of his best chance to win a playoff game against the Dolphins when Wide Right went wide left.

posted by newbyonline at 09:46 AM on November 28

Morten Anderson is playing long into his 40's. Like Weedy said I don't think we've seen the last of Mike Vanderjagt.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:47 AM on November 28

Finding the one on top of his shoulders would be a start. That deserves an award! It seems that kickers, as with pitchers in baseball, once they start to miss, they miss a lot (Rick Ankiel, Mark Wohlers etc...) . This just doesn't seem to be one of those situations. Let's call it a slump. I'm sure some other team will give the guy a chance. He is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Hopefully Gramatica won't injure himself in the midst of another spasm or celebration. (you choose)

posted by yay-yo at 12:06 PM on November 28

Morten Anderson. Amazing -- he's 46! And his percentage is nearly the best it's ever been.

posted by diastematic at 12:32 PM on November 28

Shouldn't Doug Flutie be considered the most accurate kicker in NFL history?

posted by rcade at 12:35 PM on November 28

Hopefully Gramatica won't injure himself in the midst of another spasm or celebration. (you choose) Actually, it was Martin Gramatica's brother, Bill, who injured himself celebrating a 1st quarter FG with the Arizona Cardinals. After that happened, Martin stopped celebrating his own kicks. Morten Anderson. Amazing -- he's 46! And his percentage is nearly the best it's ever been. Part of this is usage patterns -- the Falcons rarely line up Anderson for a kick of greater than 45 yards because they know he doesn't have the leg for it. His long for the year is 44 yards and the one time he attempted a FG of 50 or longer he missed. That said, it's certainly worth having a guy who is pretty money from 40 on in, especially when you know his limitations and use him accordingly.

posted by holden at 12:45 PM on November 28

They are have to pay him for the entire season anyway, why not just keep him on your roster? if someone else signs him we dont have to pay him and it is obvious someone will take a chance on the once most accurate kicker of all time

posted by dhump09 at 01:39 PM on November 28

Vanderjagt missed 5 out of 18 field goals this season, some hopeless from the moment they left the Vanderfoot. Five misses - three hit the upright, one blocked, and one clean miss. I agree that he should have done better based on history, but with only one a clear miss they hardly seem hopeless. And I don't see how you can blame the block on him since it was clearly a mistake on the line that allowed the blocker to run free. He would have blocked any kicker's attempt. if someone else signs him we dont have to pay him No one will sign him for more than the minimum, so I think Dallas will have to pay the rest of this year's salary above the minimum. And no one has to pick up any of that $2.5 million bonus. Let's see, $3,310,000 for about a half season of work, only 18 plays (not including kickoffs). Vanderjagt may seem like a knucklehead, but based on that salary he ain't stupid.

posted by graymatters at 03:09 PM on November 28

Colts fans won't forget last year's playoff in a Dome.Give me millions and I can miss too.He only had to make 1 kick. High priced spectator.Idiot kicker..........

posted by goodknight at 03:35 PM on November 28

Hoo-ah, I was at that Giants/Cards game where Bill blew out his knee celebrating the useless FG. Awesome stuff. The Giants fans were merciless with their taunting.

posted by Banky_Edwards at 04:19 PM on November 28

I have a new dream, In the past I have mentioned (if not in this forum) that the greatest job in the world is that of the NFL Kicker you do next to nothing and have sideline seats while drawing a huge paycheck. My new dream is to have the job of Fired NFL Kicker who literally does nothing and works half the season, probably to be signed by some other suffering team next year

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 04:32 PM on November 28

My new dream is to have the job of Fired NFL Kicker who literally does nothing and works half the season, probably to be signed by some other suffering team next year Can I send someone my resume?

posted by yay-yo at 04:38 PM on November 28

Thats why I can't understand the Patriots move in letting Vinatieri go. Both he and Vanderjagt were or are the two most reliable kickers in the game Cant' blame Dallas for letting him go though. I think kicking in the dome helped him big time.As for N.E., if they can get him at a good price,give him a shot. No ones going to replace Viniatieri, and I know this article is about Vanderjagt. But the kicker we have here in N.E. is just a rookie. You need a good place kicker. The Colts knew his best days were gone Good move on their part. Look who they got to replace him.

posted by Ghastly1 at 08:09 PM on November 28

Thats why I can't understand the Patriots move in letting Vinatieri go. Well, that's all very old news...but in simple words: he wanted an amount of money that was more than the Patriots thought anyone was worth at that position. Capisce? See, you can't just look at how a kicker compares to other kickers; you have to look at what it's worth, and no matter how good he is, no matter if he splits the uprights every single time, at a certain point it isn't worth it any more.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:14 PM on November 28

Vanderjagt also caused a lot of internal problems with the colts fighting with other players. That is one of the reasons they let him go.

posted by livewire at 05:30 AM on November 29

Well, that's all very old news...but in simple words: he wanted an amount of money that was more than the Patriots thought anyone was worth at that position. Capisce? See, you can't just look at how a kicker compares to other kickers; you have to look at what it's worth, and no matter how good he is, no matter if he splits the uprights every single time, at a certain point it isn't worth it any more. I understand the sentiment and analysis, but I think in this case the Patriots made a mistake, especially considering Vinatieri's history with the team and what he means to the fan base and, more importantly, that the Patriots have a fair bit of unused cap space this year (which, in addition to giving him the flexibility to sign him at his asking price, means they could have have frontloaded the deal with a big signing bonus that would have counted against the cap in whole or in large part this year). The issue for some players isn't just fair market value, its what they mean to a particular team. The Patriots could/should have signed Vinatieri because they had the cap space, because of his meaningfulness to the franchise (two SB-winning kicks and a bunch of other important kicks over the years) and because they historically (during this great run of theirs in the Belichick era) have been a team that does enough to win in the big games but does not generally blow opponents away (and the kicking game thus is more important). I guess this isn't so much to take issue with lbb's point (I think the Patriots did assign a value to the kicking position and decide to stick to it), I think it's more of an issue with how the Patriot's assessed that value in the context of some broader factors.

posted by holden at 08:09 AM on November 29

Gotta disagree with you, holden. The fan base has moved on, Gostkowski's doing all right, and I think there's some false calculation (not yours necessarily) in assigning "meaningfulness" to past kicks and extrapolating to the future. Yes, he kicked Super-Bowl-winning kicks, but ya know what? Someone always makes the play that wins the game. You look at it with 20/20 hindsight and say, "Wow, that was the game-winner!" That doesn't mean it's the only way the game could have been won, and it doesn't mean there's any gold-plated guarantee that the player will do the same thing in the future. I watched Vinatieri miss two field goals this year in Foxborough. What was up with that? Kicking has been important to the Patriots in the past, but it's important to every team: in certain situations, you know that the team is going to get in field goal range and boot the ball rather than trying for the end zone. So, I think that Vinatieri's leaving was neither a stake to the heart of the Pats nor a huge boost for the Colts. I also expect we'll get to see how key Vinatieri is/was in January, when I expect to see the two teams meet in the AFC Championship game.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:26 AM on November 29

I thought what Bill Simmons had to say about the Vinatieri situation earlier in the season was interesting. (And I should note that I'm not a Pats fan, so I have no idea what Vinatieri means to the fans or if the fan base has largely moved on). From this article: Belichick and Pioli adamantly stuck to their model for building a team -- they evaluate what each Patriot is worth in their minds, determine his probable value on the open market and then, if the difference between those two figures is too significant, they jettison the player and find someone else. In the salary cap era, they've been the only team with the resolve to stick to their guns EVERY TIME, without fail. And any time those two figures didn't mesh, they either traded the player or allowed him to leave: like Damien Woody, Patten and Givens, Joe Andruzzi, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest, Christian Fauria, Tebucky Jones and, most famously, Deion Branch a few weeks ago. Hey, I'm fine with that model. I love when front offices use common sense to build a team; I especially love when they stick to a specific game plan and avoid being pressured by owners, fans, media members or anyone else. It's the single hardest thing to achieve in sports -- a stable front office with definitive goals that can't be swayed by anyone or anything. You can count the number of professional teams that pulled this off over the past 10 years on one hand. And with that said ... They screwed up with Vinatieri. It wasn't about the money, either. He's one of the greatest Patriots ever. Out of the 12 greatest kicks in NFL history, he probably made four of them. He was our version of Mo Rivera; we wouldn't have won a single title without him, much less three. So to belittle his contributions by sticking the franchise tag on him for a couple of seasons, then allowing him to explore his market value and sign with your biggest rival ... I just thought the whole thing was preposterous, and when you factor in the team's copious amounts of cap space right now, it's even crazier. You let one of the most famous Patriots ever leave the team over a few hundred thousand dollars? Really? And why did Vinatieri seem so dead set on leaving, to the point he was reportedly saying goodbye to everyone after last January's game, like he knew he wasn't coming back?

posted by holden at 09:09 AM on November 29

Bill Simmons is a boring old biddy. There, I said it. holden, I have to say your $ analysis seems flipped on the head to me: it was as much a mistake on Adam's part to skip the advertising dollars and appearance fees available to him in New England to sign a larger contract elsewhere. Additionally, there are other factors that come into play: Vinatieri was unhappy with the Pats' treatment of him for the past couple of years, specifically franchising him to keep him signed at what he considered below market value. As such, there was a suggestion he was asking for more from the Pats (and that he did not give them a chance to match). From the Patriots' side of things, he had flaws that were only going to get worse. Yes he's accurate and he can clearly handle pressure, but they were looking at having to bring someone in for kickoffs anyway because Adam doesn't have the leg to regularly create touchbacks. As an example of this, Gostkowski's field goal at the end of the first half on Sunday moved him ahead of Vinatieri, all-time, in the category 50+ Yard Kicks Made at Foxboro. The total is now 1-0.

posted by yerfatma at 09:41 AM on November 29

I don't disagree that Simmons is a "boring old biddy"; his columns largely seem to write themselves these days, to the point where the column generator I linked to in a different thread actually spits out a pretty damned good facsimile of a Simmons column. Good times. I was just looking to get to the perspective of a Patriots fan on the whole Vinatieri thing. That said, I think yerfatma's analysis, with adding in the kickoff bit definitely tilts things in the direction of the Patriots having made the right move from a pure football perspective, especially considering the relative value of field position vs. points from FGs (see the Sports Economist link upthread). I also tend not to believe in "clutchness" -- if it's something I can't really get behind in baseball, it's that much harder to get behind it in football where the sample sizes are much, much smaller (particularly for a kicker). Sure, maybe Vinatieri has had 3 of the clutchest kicks in recent NFL history, but who's to say that's a repeatable trait?

posted by holden at 10:35 AM on November 29

...they were looking at having to bring someone in for kickoffs anyway because Adam doesn't have the leg to regularly create touchbacks. As an example of this, Gostkowski's field goal at the end of the first half on Sunday moved him ahead of Vinatieri, all-time, in the category 50+ Yard Kicks Made at Foxboro. The total is now 1-0. Yup. Along those lines, I'd say -- subjectively, no data -- that the Pats have been doing better this year in the field-position-after-kickoffs situation. That's not all the kicker, but the kicker is a lot of it, and there are limits to what the defense can do if you hand the other team excellent field position every single time. I'll make a small wager here, which I'll never collect because it's not in the realm of the provable. I'm bettiing that the loss of Miller will hurt worse than the loss of Vinatieri. Also, re: the fan perspective: Simmons has his, and I have mine. I was a huge Adam V fan while he was with the team, but dollars and cents aside, I think the Pats have done well at letting players go and not taking it personally, and that extends to at least this fan too. Vinatieri was a huge positive, and now he's gone, but nobody robs you of memories. It's insisting that nothing good can happen if you let things change that keeps you from making any good memories in the future.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:45 AM on November 29

tend not to believe in "clutchness" -- if it's something I can't really get behind in baseball, it's that much harder to get behind it in football where the sample sizes are much, much smaller I suppose, but what about free throws in basketball or something like that?

posted by yerfatma at 10:54 AM on November 29

vanderjagt was always a little crazy even when he was making his kicks for the colts, I don't feel at all sorry for the crazy bastard. I just hope vinatieri helps us finally get to the super bowl

posted by chmurray at 10:57 AM on November 29

I just hope vinatieri helps us finally get to the super bowl Until you get a quarterback who doesn't fold like a cheap newspaper in the big game, no kicker's going to help the Colts.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 11:39 AM on November 29

Some tangentially-related points in today's Boston papers:

John Czarnecki of Fox television and Foxsports.com might have uncorked the mystery last week when he reported Parcells had a nod-and-wink agreement with Belichick and Pats personnel director Scott Pioli not to make the first offer for Vinatieri in free agency . . . problem was that Indianapolis president Bill Polian apparently told Vinatieri that the Colts' offer would be off the table if he left the building during his free agent visit . . . Was [Parcells] acting in the best interest of the Cowboys organization, or on a personal relationship with Belichick and Pioli . . . you realize why Vinatieri might have been frustrated with the forces around him. He already was leery of Belichickís relationship with his agent, Neil Cornrich, whom Vinatieri ultimately fired before signing with the Colts. Now it turns out there might have been other side deals in place to limit Vinatieriís market.
[Patriots o]pponents, on average, start at the 28-yard line, which leads the NFL. Barely relevant, but a great article on kick blocking.

posted by yerfatma at 11:54 AM on November 29

Y, that was a terrific article. Those are the points of the game that the talking TV idiots need to be defining for fans, not the out route or another cutesie feature on someone's sack dance. The greatest kick block I've ever seen, though, didn't use any of these techniques. When I was a sophomore in high school, we played Roxana in a junior varsity game. It was smoking hot, and we were tied 20-20 on the last play of the game. No one was looking forward to playing overtime, but Roxana lined up to try something like a 53-yard field goal. At the snap, Steve Ohren came charging through the line nearly untouched. Now Steve was a pretty good run stuffer, but he was also nearly blind. He ran directly at the kicker, who punched a low liner that hit Steve square in the face mask. All of us were so surprised, we all stopped and looked at Steve. Only one guy, our cornerback, saw the ball ricochet off Steve's helmet and go flying toward the right sideline. The CB picked it off cleanly in midair and ran it back unmolested for the touchdown, thus saving us from more vomiting on the sidelines. Not graceful, but it got the job done.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:44 PM on November 29

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