This Saturday, former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of the greatest executives in league history, Polian compiled quite a resume with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, and the Colts. To commemorate Polian's induction into Canton, we're going to be counting down the ten best moves that he made as the general manager of the Colts. Today, we kick off the list with two kickers, Mike Vanderjagt and Adam Vinatieri.
I know, I know - it seems like the easy way out to put two people in the same spot, and it's true, it is the easy way out. But it's amazing how similar Vanderjagt and Vinatieri's careers with the Colts have been (statistically), and Polian deserves credit for bringing both of them in, though in vastly different situations.
Vanderjagt was signed by the Colts as a free agent out of the Canadian Football League in 1998, Polian's first year with the team, and he served as their kicker through the 2005 season. He is most remembered for his miss in the divisional round game of the playoffs in the 2005 season, ending the season of what many consider to have been the best Colts team of the Peyton Manning era. While Vanderjagt missed too many clutch kicks for the liking, he was still a very, very good kicker. In fact, at the time he retired Vanderjagt was the most accurate kicker in the history of the league and the Colts' all-time leading scorer (a designation he still holds but that Adam Vinatieri will soon break). In eight seasons with the Colts, Vanderjagt hit on 87.5% of his field goal attempts and 99.4% of his extra point attempts. He led the league in scoring in 1999 and made the Pro Bowl in 2003, also being named a first-team All-Pro that year. During that 2003 season, Vanderjagt didn't miss a single kick: he made all 37 field goal tries, all 46 extra point tries, and all three playoff field goal tries and all 12 playoff extra point tries. He is the only kicker in league history to have a completely perfect season, as the Vikings' Gary Anderson missed a field goal in the playoffs after a perfect regular season in 1998. His streak of 42 consecutive field goals made (spanning multiple seasons) also is the most all-time. That's not a bad resume whatsoever for a guy signed as a free agent out of the CFL in Polian's first year.
But, of course, what fans remember is the miss in the playoff game against the Steelers, as well as some off-field comments Vanderjagt made about the team. So, with the kicker a free agent following the 2005 season and with the playoff miss still fresh in everyone's minds, the Colts moved on from Vanderjagt - instead taking to free agency to sign Adam Vinatieri, the most clutch kicker in NFL history. Bill Polian's time as general manager wasn't marked by great free agent signings, but Vinatieri was his best. It was a completely different scenario than Vanderjagt's signing, as Vinatieri had already won three Super Bowls with the Patriots - two of which came via game-winning kicks from Vinatieri - and was among the league's best kickers. In nine seasons with the Colts, Vinatieri has made 86% of his field goal attempts and 99.1% of his extra point tries, making numerous big-time kicks and helping the Colts win a Super Bowl in the 2006 season (making five field goals to lead them to a divisional round victory that year). In 2014, he enjoyed a career year, making 30-of-31 field goals (his 96.8 field goal percentage was the highest single-season total for a kicker since Vanderjagt in 2003) and all 50 extra points, being named to the Pro Bowl and being named a first-team All-Pro. The free agent signing of Adam Vinatieri in 2006 ended up being a great move by Bill Polian that is still paying dividends today.
Adam Vinatieri is the better kicker and has been more clutch, but the fact that he was signed as a free agent after having a very successful ten year career with the Patriots compared to Vanderjagt, who was signed out of the CFL, makes them about even on this list of Bill Polian's best moves. In fact, consider just how statistically similar the two have been during their time with the Colts:
|Adam Vinatieri||Mike Vanderjagt|
|9||Seasons w/ Colts||8|
Both Mike Vanderjagt and Adam Vinatieri were very good signings by Bill Polian during his time with the Colts, and they are both deserving of a spot on this list. Really, what better way to kick off a list like this than with the two very good kickers that Polian signed during his tenure.