Talk of Fame Network
In the end, kickers are remembered best for balls that cut through snow and wind and split the uprights with playoff games on the line. Failing that they are remembered for the clutch kicks that win Super Bowls as the clock is ticking toward 0:00.
Adam Vinatieri has made plenty of both and, in the end, that's what separated him from his competitors in our poll of which kicker you'd want lining up a 50-yard kick with time running out and a season on the line. Vinatieri garnered half of our listeners' votes, defeating the only full-time place kicker in the Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud, but a 2-to-1 margin. The NFL's all-time leading scorer, Morten Andersen, finished third with Jason Hanson fourth.
"I know one of these guys is in the Hall of Fame,'' said our Clark Judge. "I know one is the game's all-time leading scorer. But I've never seen either of those two make a more difficult field goal than the 45-yarder Adam Vinatieri nailed in a blizzard to send the famous "Tuck Game'' between the Patriots and Raiders into playoff overtime.
"I know, it wasn't a conference championship game, and, yes, I understand it merely sent that contest into overtime. But talk about damned-near impossible. It would be one thing if that was his greatest moment, but the guy continues to hit everything at every distance and at any time of the game. For me, he's the first guy I choose to win a game.''
Vinatieri made a 48-yard field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI, 20-17, as time expired to give the Patriots the first of their three Super Bowl championships. Two years later he did nearly the same thing, nailing a 41-yard field goal with four seconds to play to defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Vinatieri has four Super Bowl rings and has appeared in the game five times.
None of those statistics and clutch performances persuaded our Rick Gosselin however. His choice is Andersen, who was a Hall of Fame finalist a year ago.
"He changed the game when he arrived with his long-range field goals and consistently unreturnable, out of the end zone kickoffs,'' Gosselin said.
Ron Borges covered Vinatieri for 10 years in New England before he left as a free agent to sign with the Indianapolis Colts (and win another Super Bowl there) and he remains convinced there has never been a more reliable kicker in the clutch than Vinatieri.
"He has to get my vote,'' Borges said. "When he sent that field goal cutting through a blizzard to send the 'Tuck Game'' into overtime you knew what was coming next. You had the same feeling when he was lining up his first Super Bowl winning field goal. It didn't matter how long they were, if the game was on the line Adam Vinatieri was going to put the ball between the uprights.''
Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts