Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri called it a career on Wednesday, announcing his retirement from the NFL after 24 seasons in the league. While the 48-year-old spent the final 14 years of his pro career with the Indianapolis Colts, he originally put himself in legendary status as a member of the New England Patriots where he spent the first decade of his NFL life.
One person who got an up-close look at Vinatieri's greatness was Bill Belichick. The kicker had been with the club dating back to 1996 but when Belichick arrived as the head coach in 2000 that set the stage for some of the biggest kicks in NFL history. Of course, the Snow Bowl kick against the Raiders in the divisional round during 2001 playoffs and his two Super Bowl-winning boots are the stuff of legend in New England, but that's just the tip of the iceberg for Vinatieri's historic résumé.
On Thursday, Belichick looked back at Vinatieri's career during a conference call with reporters and made it crystal clear that he considers him to be the greatest kicker of all time and should soon find himself in Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I've been very fortunate as a head coach to have some outstanding kickers from [Matt] Stover to Adam to Steve [Gostkowski] and Nick [Folk] most recently, but Adam's really, in my mind, the best of all time," said the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. "His consistency, his ability to handle clutch situations and make the biggest kicks and just the longevity of his career, I mean it was a quarter of a century and the consistency is just remarkable. It was such a pleasure to be with Adam even from his rookie year in '96 to then when I came back and it was obviously right in the prime of his career and made so many big kicks. We were in so many close games, during the time when he was here and I was the head coach, we were in so many close games that his ability to consistently put points on the board was incredibly valuable and obviously the first kick in a Snow Bowl to tie it, it has to go down as one of the great kicks of all time, if not the greatest.
"And then, two game-winning kicks in Super Bowls just doesn't get any bigger than that but one thing with Adam, you never felt the pressure of the moment and he certainly didn't seem to, so it gave me and our team great confidence and again, I was very, very fortunate to have a player of his caliber in my time as a head coach. And then as I said, before and after we had some pretty good ones too, but Adam was really, really special. So, tribute to him and his great career and one that I'm sure will place him in the Hall of Fame in five years. That's where he should be."
Not only does Vinatieri have those legendary kicks to look back on but he also retires as the NFL's all-time leading scorer.