By Matt Noonan
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will always be synonymous with the New England Patriots, but the same could be said for Adam Vinatieri, who announced his retirement from the National Football League (NFL) yesterday on The Pat McAfee Show.
Vinatieri, like Brady and Belichick, helped the Patriots win their first-ever Super Bowl championship against the St. Louis Rams in 2002 — he clinched the win with a last-second field goal weeks after splitting the uprights twice in a snowy postseason affair with the Oakland Raiders. He would win three more championships over the next five years, including one with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 (the victory marked the first of two titles for quarterback Peyton Manning, who would win his second Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2016).
The Yankton, South Dakota native has garnered multiple accolades throughout his career, including a trio of First-Team All-Pro honors along with a spot on three historic rosters: New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He is currently the league’s all-time scoring leader (2,673 points) and holds numerous kicking records, including the most consecutive field goals made (44).
So, between his accolades and records, along with his four Super Bowl rings, is it fair to say Vinatieri is the best placekicker in NFL History?
My answer: Yes, he is, but some may disagree and say that Morten Andersen (2,544 all-time points) and Gary Anderson (2,434 all-time points) deserve some consideration as the best placekicker in league history.
Neither Andersen nor Anderson has won a Super Bowl, but they both competed for nearly three decades. Vinatieri kicked extra points and field goals for 24 years.
Andersen was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017 — he is also a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and ranks second in the league in games played (382). He converted 565 of 709 field-goal attempts and was close to perfect when it came to extra points (849 out of 859 attempts). Andersen kicked for five teams but spent most of his career with the Saints.
Anderson has yet to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame but should hear his name called one of these days especially after tallying 1,343 points with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Four years after he left the Steelers, he enjoyed one of his best seasons with the Minnesota Vikings where he converted every extra point and field goal attempt in the regular season. His streak would conclude in the 1998 NFC Championship Game when he missed a 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Falcons capitalized on the missed field goal by scoring a game-tying touchdown on the ensuing possession. Morten Andersen would cap the comeback with a game-winning field goal in overtime.
Similar to Andersen, Anderson competed for five teams. He spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1982-1994).
All three kickers enjoyed successful careers, but after a quick stroll down memory lane, I still believe Adam Vinatieri is the best placekicker of all time. Had Morten Andersen won at least one — OK, maybe two Super Bowls, then maybe you could say it is a toss-up. Perhaps he would have earned more postseason honors, as well? But based on statistics and four Super Bowl titles, along with being the all-time scoring leader (as of this afternoon), I think it is fair to say that Vinatieri will always be the NFL’s best placekicker.