Finding Buckner: The Championship Round

Kevork Djansezian

Every franchise has one - the player/fan/coach that kept you from getting to the top when you should have. In Boston it's Bill Buckner. In Chicago it's Steve Bartman. In Buffalo it's Scott Norwood. Who is the biggest scapegoat in Indianapolis Colts history? That hasn't been determined - yet.

This is what it all comes down to... Mike Vanderjagt and Jeff George. A battle from two different eras. A battle between the Canadian and local golden boy. A battle featuring the most respected position on the football field (quarterback) and the butt of most football jokes (kicker).

A battle of boneheads.

The Indianapolis Colts Scapegoat Champion will be decided over the next several days by the readers of Stampede Blue. Use your vote wisely and weigh the elements of each candidate's douche baggery - only one can be chosen. Picture yourself in a room with each candidate... they walk in and start to talk about their Colts career and how they've been unfairly criticized and given too much blame. Let's imagine.....

Jeff George: Man, what a day. I still get booed walking out of the mall. Don't they remember I was the FIRST Gatorade National Player of the Year in high school? I graduated just up the street. Hell, Purdue, Illinois and Miami were all begging me to play for them... and I chose Purdue! What else do they want from me? Sure, I left after one season 'cause the coach that recruited me was forced to resign - but that's only because I TOLD Purdue to talk to ME before they hired someone else. But did they? NO! So I went to Illinois... It's what was best for Jeff George.

I made it pretty obvious that I would love to come back home after college and play with the Colts - maybe make that team respectable, you know? I was glad that word got to Jim Irsay. I know he gave up a king's ransom to get me to Indianapolis (Andre Rison, Chris Hinton, 1st round pick, etc.) but I was going to be this team's future... before you fans screwed it all up.

I know, I know... I signed the richest rookie contract in league history (at the time) - but one guy doesn't make a team! I spent more time on my butt in Indianapolis than Brad Well's does sitting in his mother's basement. But, who do you blame? ME. I mean, when I came to town you guys surrounded me with guys like Eric Dickerson, Albert Bentley, Bill Brooks, Clarence Verdin, Pat Beach and Jessie Hester... Seriously - who can win with these guys? On defense we had no-names like Duane Bickett, Eugene Daniel, Jeff Herrod, Mike Prior, Jon Hand and Tony Sirag...something. Times were tough.

Even with all that - I did my best. I went 5-7 my rookie year - what was your record without me? (2-2) The next year you finally got me for a full season and I go 1-15... but it wasn't my fault. Ron Meyer was the head coach and he wasn't doing his job... we had to get him out there. In 1992 we got a new coach - Ted Marchibroda. I only played in the ten games that season but we finished 9-7 - I went 6-4. It wasn't my best statistical season (7 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) and don't think I didn't hear you guys saying you were winning 'in spite of me, not because of me'. I heard it. And when you guys booed me after getting shutout two consecutive weeks? I heard that to. When Teddy pulled me for Jack Trudeau late in the year I was pissed. Do you know that I've never been pulled from a game in my entire life? I knew what I was going to do then and there. I told the media guys.... Ted's going to have to live with the consequences of his decision. You all would.

That's why in 1993 I decided not to show up. You want to boo me? You think you can pull me from a game? You can't if I'm not there! Who's laughing now?!? I told Irsay I wanted out... traded, anything to not have to play in front of these ungrateful hicks in Indiana. He told me I was being 'disrespectful' and committing 'career suicide' or something... I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention. The team struggled BIG TIME without me, only going 2-3. That's when I decided to bless the team with my presence. It wasn't quite the welcome party I expected... jerks. After I came back I got two wins, too... 2-9. But - not my fault.

Finally I convinced the Colts to trade me. It was clear that they weren't appreciative of my talents. And, come to think of it... neither was Atlanta, or Oakland... or Minnesota... or Washington. I gave the city of Indianapolis one last chance to make things right... I offered to help them when they went 2-14 in 2011, but did they call? NO.

For my career I had 8 fourth quarter comebacks, 17 game winning drives and led the Colts to a 14-35 record when I was starting quarterback. The funny thing is that you guys are excited about Andrew Luck and his 4 fourth quarter comebacks, 7 game winning drives and 11-5 record. Sheesh... Colts fans.

Mike Vanderjagt: I know, right?! All I did was become the MOST ACCURATE FIELD GOAL KICKER IN NFL HISTORY! You think that's easy? Some people think this team really started to turn the corner in 1998 and give all the credit to Peyton Manning. You know who else came to this team in 1998? Me. Oh, and when the Colts had the best turnaround in league history in 1999 (from 3-13 to 13-3), guess who led the ENTIRE NFL in scoring? Me! Not Peyton freakin' Manning!. In the 1999 playoffs we lost to the Titans 16-19 - you can't blame me though. I made all three of my field goal attempts. It was Peyton who couldn't get you in the endzone.

During the 2000 playoffs we lost to Miami in overtime. I made all three of my kicks in regulation (including a 50 yarder in the fourth quarter) but all you want to talk about is the game winner I missed in OT from 49 yards out. The sun was in my eyes.

In January of 2003 we lost to the Jets in the playoffs 41-0 and I missed my only field goal attempt. Peyton just did his 'mopey face' and Dungy kept positive and saying that everything would be OK. Me? I was pissed (not in the British way either, Peyton). So, yeah, I went on TV and questioned whether Peyton and Tony were really 'leaders'.... so what? Don't REAL leaders say what's on their mind on Canadian TV? Then Peyton went and said what was on his mind on national TV at the Pro Bowl.... I didn't like what was on his mind. What was he trying to do, turn Indy against me? Talk about leadership.

The whole offseason, the only thing people were saying was 'he better not miss a kick if he wants to stay with the Colts' and 'just give Indy a reason'. So what did I do? I went 37 of 37 on field goals that season... perhaps you remember that? Sure there were some close calls along the way (that guy in Tampa distracted me by 'leaping') but no other kicker has ever done that, have they? When we got in the playoffs again and won a couple of games I was feeling pretty good. I knew no one else would say it, so I did. I thought the Patriots were 'ripe for the picking' and told that to the press. You think Manning or Dungy would have said that? The Patriots said some mean things (Vanderjerk).... what did I ever do to them. We should have won that game but New England seemed unusually fired up to make us look bad. I wonder what set them off?

It was fun to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl that year - those guys... so many pranks and kicker jokes. Every one started being really mean to me after the game. I know I missed a 51 yard field goal that could've tied the game and made us all a little more money... but, c'mon guys, it's the PRO BOWL, right?

To start off 2004 we got to play the Patriots again. Down 27-24 with only a few seconds left, Peyton had me all lined up for a 35 yard field goal - and then HE GETS SACKED BY WILLIE MCGINEST AND LOST 13 YARDS. Sure, I pushed the 48 yard field goal wide right - BUT IT WAS PEYTON'S FAULT.

That brings us to 2005. The Colts go 14-2 and we're favored to win the whole thing. Then, Peyton comes out FLAT. The offense can't do anything all day. When the game was on the line and it was fourth down Manning got sacked at our own 2 yard line. It looked like the game was going to be over until Gary Brackett forced that fumble. And, IF NICK HARPER could avoid Ben Roethlisberger, we wouldn't even be having this conversation - or, if Peyton tries to get me A LITTLE closer instead of going for the endzone! But he didn't and I'm stuck trying a 46 yard field goal with the weight of Indianapolis on my shoulders. But, yeah... it's MY FAULT.

Yeah... I know the Colts won a Super Bowl the next season (when I was long gone). Thanks to Peyton I've been blacklisted in the NFL and now run my own pizza joint (with my brothers) in Florida. The most accurate kicker in NFL history and zero respect.

So.... Who would you rather punch in the face? The golden boy with a sense of entitlement taken #1 overall who crippled the franchise for years or the 'idiot kicker' who missed clutch kick after clutch kick and couldn't keep his mouth shut?

The vote is yours...

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