An Adam Vinatieri return to New England? No thanks.

Andy Hart
November 12, 2019 - 7:31 am
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It’s an idea worthy of the most sappy Hollywood sports movie.

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It’s also a full-circle tale Patriots fans should want no part of.

During a bye-weekend appearance on WBZ TV’s “Sports Final,” ESPN’s Mike Reiss spit-balled a timely hypothetical sports debate topic: If you were the Patriots and he became available, would you bring legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri back to New England?

From this viewpoint, the question has two possible answers.

No.

And oh hell no.

The problem is that the theoretical discussion may not be all that far-fetched, only for all the wrong reasons.

From a Patriots perspective, there is the obvious potential need for another kicker. Mainstay Stephen Gostkowski – who was actually drafted to replace Vinatieri back in 2006 when the veteran was allowed to leave via free agency -- is on injured reserve following hip surgery that came after an ugly start to 2019 that included four missed PATs, most notably a pair in a Week 2 win in Miami.

Mike Nugent “won” an open tryout of street free agents to take over the job. But his time in New England lasted a mere four games thanks to his own trio of missed short field goals and a failed PAT, as well as a lack of leg strength that seemingly eliminated even the thought of attempting any kick longer than 40 yards.

Nick Folk is the current journeyman veteran for the job, having hit on all his attempts in the pre-bye loss in Baltimore. But his two years away from the NFL and more than suspect track record before that indicate Folk may not be the last man the Patriots turn to this fall.

So, would Bill Belichick turn back the clock in the kicking game, turn things over to Da Man in Vinatieri who literally and figuratively kick-started the Patriots dynasty against the Raiders back in the snow in 2001?

Unfortunately, the only reason this question is even worth consideration is because Vinatieri is battling through his own struggles in Indianapolis as arguably the worst kicker in the game in this, his 24th NFL season. The future Hall of Famer has missed six of his 20 PAT attempts this fall and hit on a pedestrian 14 of his 19 field goals.

Vinatieri has directly cost the 5-4 Colts a win with a missed field goal and indirectly with a missed PAT this past Sunday that had Indy down four points going for a fourth-down play in the waning seconds rather than kicking what could have been a short, game-tying field goal.

“We're going to always evaluate, everybody gets measured and everyone is held accountable,” Colts coach Frank Reich said of Vinatieri’s struggles for a squad that’s very much the AFC playoff hunt.

Meanwhile the local scribe sharks at the Indy Star smell blood in the water, writing that “the Vinatieri Problem” is affecting Reich’s credibility while the paper is already offering up a list of replacements.

Maybe the 46-year-old Vinatieri announces his retirement. Maybe the Colts take the easy road out and put him on injured reserve. Or maybe they stick with him through the struggles. Any of the three scenarios keeps him from what might be uncomfortable consideration from the Patriots.

But, if Indy cuts Vinatieri and he considers a continuation of his career, then he becomes the top available kicker, likely sliding into the first slot of all teams’ emergency lists, almost certainly any playoff-caliber squad looking for a guy with a resume of clutch kicks.

If cut, on paper Vinatieri is a better option than Folk. Even at age 46. Even having to leave the comfy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium to return to his kicking roots in the tough outdoor conditions of the northeast. Even given all his struggles this season.

But this isn’t the movies, this is real life. If we’re being more realistic than sentimental, we’d all admit a return to New England is a script more likely to end in horror than highlights for Vinatieri and the Patriots.

As of today, Vinatieri is a proven legend in Boston sports history. He’s an almost mythical figure whose powerful right leg booms balls through the snow to ignite championships, calmly splitting uprights that a mere mortal kicker might not even see.

As of today, based on memory, Vinatieri never missed a key kick. To the contrary, every time his golden right foot connected with a ball it not only led to a Super Bowl ring, but also to an angel getting its wings.

Frankly, it’s a legend that the aging Vinatieri can’t possibly live up to. This hypothetical return – one that would initially be met by pure joy throughout the New England region – would almost certainly lead to missed kicks and a realization that the greatest kicker ever, one of the great founding fathers of the Patriots dynasty, isn’t what he once was.

A Vinatieri return to a Patriots uniform would be like an aging boxer getting knocked out after taking one-too-many fights.

It would be like Michael Jordan looking very ordinary with the Wizards.

It would be a couple former high school sweethearts trying to rekindle things in their late, post-divorce 40s.

Some things are better left to history, legend and joyful memories.

Some things are meant to remain in the past.

Adam Vinatieri is legendary part of Patriots history.

Let’s hope he stays that way.

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