For a New England Patriots
fan this has to feel like the end of an era. Sure, the team has still got the coach and management to put a great team on the field. Sure, they have plenty of room below the salary cap to help them out. But even though linebacker Tedy Bruschi chastised a reporter who asked if the dynasty was over, it’s beginning to feel that way. There is a lot of nostalgia floating around in New England over their three-time Super Bowl
champions. But as is usually the case in professional sports these days, players move on and even though success might continue it’s no longer the same team.
With any other team and any other player you would pick up the newspaper and say, “He’s just a kicker.” In fact, that’s what I’m telling myself to help with the grieving. The truth is Adam Vinatieri is not just a kicker. He’s forever embedded in Boston sports lore. He has two Super Bowl winning kicks and two season saving kicks in the snow to help start the dynasty rolling. He’s the second most notable Patriot, only taking a back seat to Tom Brady. Now he’s gone. He’s officially an Indianapolis Colt. If there is a bigger sign of an era being over I don’t want to see it.
It’s nothing new really. Guys like Ty Law and David Patten have won Super Bowls and left. Willie McGinist and David Givens are already gone this off-season. The team that will take the field this fall will be significantly different than the team that won their first Super Bowl in 2002. Key players like Roosevelt Colvin and Rodney Harrison weren’t there for the first win. So that goes to show you that players can come and go and the team identity still sticks around, but losing Vinatieri may be too much identity.
In actuality, Vinatieri leaving may be the least notable transaction of the dynasty in terms of on the field contribution. After all, he’s just a kicker. I’m just going to keep saying it until I believe it. But really, losing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel last off-season probably have more of a negative impact on the field than the loss of Vinatieri. The strategy, philosophy, and work ethic that they brought to the table had more of an effect on the whole teams performance than any one player.
But there’s no denying that Vinatieri was one of the vital organs to the dynasty and not a fringe player whose departure and replacement is soon forgotten. The New England Patriots chose not to give their kicker the franchise tag, which would’ve cost them three million dollars. But after three championships who are we to argue. Fans have to assume that this group of people knows what they’re doing. Winning three Super Bowls is not an accident.
Fans will get over this loss. When Vinatieri retires it’ll be like he never left. He’ll come back on special occasions and will receive the huge ovations he deserves. Pleasant or not, someday Tom Brady will probably leave as well. Who would’ve thought that a third string rookie quarterback would take over for Drew Bledsoe the next season after he signed a 100 million dollar contract? Who complained when that quarterback led his team to the Super Bowl? Vinatieri is gone. Tom Brady will leave. But their legacies in New England will always be intact.
So next season a new team will take the field and will probably be competitive. But will we recognize them as the same team that has won three championships? If they win their fourth next year I’m sure we’ll lump them all together. But the ever-changing puzzle pieces make identity a difficult thing.