Does Vinatieri Injury Open Door for Vanderjagt's comeback

Don FishCorrespondent IJune 7, 2009

Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt leads cheers from the field January 4, 2004 at the RCA Dome, Indianapolis, in an AFC Wildcard game.  The Colts defeated the  Denver Broncos 41 - 10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Colts organization released a statement Friday that kicker Adam Vinatieri underwent surgery on his right hip to help, "Relieve nagging discomfort, which had existed for more than a year." 

While the organization insists that he will be ready to go for the start of the regular season, Colts fans might be justified in being a little worried. 

Hip surgery for a kicker is no insignificant or minor event, and the Colts organization has a history of not revealing the entire truth regarding the significance of a player's injuries. 

The reality of the situation is that it is very likely that Adam Vinatieri could return from hip surgery, have a long rehabilitation process, suffer complications and setbacks, and then re-injure or aggravate the injury during the course of the season, leaving the team and its fans without a proven kicker on their roster. 

I think it’s time for the Colts to consider a backup plan and his name should be Mike Vanderjagt.

Adam Vinatieri is 36 years old, which is not terribly old for a kicker, but he's certainly nearing the end of his career. Since joining the Colts in 2006, his field goal percentage has dropped dramatically from 89.3 percent in 2006 to 79.3 percent in 2007 to 80.0 percent in 2008. 

Over his career as a kicker, Vinatieri has never been much of a long distance kicker, sinking only 10 of 21 from 50+ yards. 

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If you look at his production since joining the Colts in 2006, he has even suffered a significant drop off in his ability to kick medium to long field goals in the range of 40-49 yards, sinking 9 of 10 in 2006 and only 4 of 9 in 2007 and 2008.

Hip surgery might alleviate the pain and discomfort for Vinatieri, but don’t expect his numbers to increase. At best, his stats won’t drop off anymore (at least for a couple of years), and the Colts will continue on with a mediocre kicker with a hall of fame name on the back of his jersey. 

Meanwhile... Mike Vanderjagt, the NFL’s most accurate kicker in the history of football and the Colt’s kicker from 1998 through the 2005 season, recently requested (and received) his release from the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. 

Vanderjagt initially announced that he was retiring from football, but requested his release, “To leave my options open in case my feelings change.”  My guess is that if the NFL and the Colts should come calling, Vanderjagt’s feelings may change in a hurry.

Vanderjagt can still come in and perform at a high level, and it is not really a matter of money since Vanderjagt has been playing for the Canadian Football League, which generally pays significantly less than the National Football League. 

The Colts would not even need to pick up Vanderjagt immediately, since he is retired and not even signed with anyone else yet; they could simply wait it out and see how Vinatieri performs. 

If the Colts' organization then sees that Vinatieri doesn’t look like he can perform, then they can always call up Mike Vanderjagt, right?

So what is the problem then? 

Well, don’t we already know the answer to that one? 

Let me see, something about questioning Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy’s passion and intensity, something about a liquored up kicker; for some reason those things are what come to mind. 

It’s common knowledge that Vanderjagt (before entering the 2005 NFL season) spouted off publicly about how he thought Manning and Dungy didn’t have enough fire in their attitude, not enough passion and intensity to win the big games. 

Manning fired back with his own comments calling Vanderjagt an, “Idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off.” 

Despite the rift though, Vanderjagt, Manning, and Dungy made amends and put the drama aside. Vanderjagt played another full season with the Colts until they came up short in the playoffs. 

At the end of the 2005 season, the only person that could possibly replace the NFL’s most accurate kicker became a free agent, Vinatieri.

Vinatieri has made more big shots in football than any other kicker.  He’s like the Reggie Miller of football when it comes to making last minute shots to win the game. 

Vinatieri was known, and still is, as the best clutch kicker to have ever played the game.  And so when the Colts saw an opportunity to get better, they took the chance.  Vanderjagt was out, and Vinatieri was in.

And that’s what the Colts should do now, they have to take a chance to get better. 

They have to put aside old rifts, and do what’s best for the team. They have to give Vinatieri time to heal properly. 

They have to give Vanderjagt a serious look.