NFL training camps are in full swing, and it won’t be long before all teams will be playing their first preseason game of the year. But with still more than a month to go before the regular season, ESPN decided to dive back into history to take a look at the best of the best at every position.
To name the greatest players of all time, ESPN polled 50 NFL insiders to vote for one player who they think is the best ever at every position.
While Peyton Manning received two votes at quarterback, it was kicker Adam Vinatieri who was the lone Indianapolis Colts player to be named the all-time GOAT at his position.
“Vinatieri’s 397 games (including playoffs) are the most by any player, as are his field goals made (599), consecutive field goals made (44) and career seasons with 100-plus points (21),” NFL writer Jeff Legwold of ESPN wrote. “But he might have an even stronger case here, given he kicked the game winner in two Super Bowls and made 56 field goals in playoff games, including going 5-of-7 from at least 50 yards.”
Vinateri made those game-winning field goals in the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, but Vinateri also won a championship with the Colts and played longer in Indianapolis than New England.
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Biggest Clutch Kicker Ever
In five Super Bowl performances, Vinatieri only made 70% of his field goals. But he always came through when it mattered most.
During New England’s first two Super Bowl victories, Vinatieri made the game-winning field goal in the final seconds. In the team’s third championship, Vinatieri kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the difference, as the Patriots won by three.
Vinatieri also made a game-winning field goal in the snow during the 2002 AFC Divisional round. That was during the Patriots’ run to their first Super Bowl.
Without those clutch kicks, New England doesn’t win three championships in four years.
“When he hit a 45-yarder in a snow globe against the Raiders in the playoffs — the greatest kick in NFL history in my opinion — he started a run of unprecedented reliance in the highest-leverage moments and launched a dynasty, changing the legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady,” wrote NFL writer Seth Wickersham of ESPN.
In 15 playoff appearances, Vinatieri made 81.2% of his field goal attempts.
Vinatieri’s Legacy With the Colts
When Vinatieri left New England to sign with the Colts before the 2006 season, part of it didn’t seem right. He helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls and four AFC Championships. Fans were always going to associate him with New England.
But then Vinatieri helped the Colts win the Super Bowl during his first season. Then he made the All-Pro team with Indianapolis in 2014 at 42 years old. After 2015, Vinatieri matched his 10 seasons in New England with 10 seasons with the Colts.
Vinatieri kicked for Indianapolis until the end of 2019, giving him 14 seasons in Indianapolis — four more than New England. He had a higher field-goal percentage and scored more points with the Colts.
And despite all the postseason success with the Patriots, Vinatieri had more postseason field goals made and a better playoff field-goal percentage with the Colts.
Vinatieri remains the leader in points scored in Colts history with 1,515 points. No other player has scored 1,000 points for the franchise.
Among kickers with more than 25 attempts, Vinatieri is second in franchise history with an 85.3% field goal percentage. Only Mike Vanderjagt, who Vinatieri replaced in Indianapolis in 2006, had a higher career percentage.