IRVING, Texas -- This is how serious Bill Parcells is taking
the Dallas Cowboys' stretch drive: He cut inconsistent kicker Mike Vanderjagt on Monday.
Hailed as the answer to the Cowboys' kicking woes when signed in
March, Vanderjagt wasn't living up to his statistical claim to fame
as the most accurate kicker in league history. He was only 13-of-18
on field goals, a 72.2 percent success rate that was the lowest of
his nine-year career.
Vanderjagt also didn't like having to kick off, one of many
aspects of his quirky personality that didn't always go over well
Dallas gave Vanderjagt a $2.5 million signing bonus as part of a
three-year, $5.4 million deal, so this is a costly move. The
message could be worth it for Parcells as he tries to guide the
Cowboys into the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and to
their first division title since 1998.
Dallas (7-4) has a one-game lead over the New York Giants in the
NFC East going into their meeting Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Parcells often talks of the swirling winds at the stadium where he
spent the first eight years of his career, and he apparently wasn't
ready to play a big game there with a kicker he didn't trust.
But can he trust Martin Gramatica, who was signed Monday to
Once so accurate that he was nicknamed "Automatica," Gramatica
was out of the NFL last season and was cut by New England in the
preseason. He played three games this season for Indianapolis while
Adam Vinatieri was injured, making his only attempt, a 20-yarder.
Cowboys players and coaches did not talk to the media Monday.
The locker room will be open Tuesday, and Parcells will speak to
reporters for the first time since Dallas beat Tampa Bay 38-10
Vanderjagt made his only field goal attempt against the
Buccaneers, but the 22-yarder seems to have been too close for
comfort for Parcells. The previous week, facing his former team,
Indianapolis, Vanderjagt missed two first-half field goals.
"I'm just hoping things take a turn for the better," Parcells
said last week. "I think right now, we just have to give him the
benefit of the doubt and think things will. Now if they don't, then
that could be a different deal."
He added that he wasn't losing patience, but said "it needs to
get better," and if it didn't, "you would definitely have to"
make a change.
Vanderjagt's five misses are near his career high. He was
28-of-34 in 2001 and 23-of-31 the following season, then went
37-of-37 in 2003. He's missed a total of seven kicks the last two
For his career, he's made 230-of-266. His accuracy rate -- 86.5
percent -- is still tops in league history. He's also made all but
two of his 379 PATs.
Vanderjagt holds the league record for consecutive field goals
with 42, set from 2002-04.
On most of his misses this season, Vanderjagt came close --
unlike his final kick for Indianapolis, a wobbler that prevented
the Colts from forcing overtime against Pittsburgh in last year's
Three of his misses for Dallas hit the upright and another was
blocked because of a missed assignment by a lineman. The block
could go down as his most memorable moment with the Cowboys. The
kick would've beaten Washington, but the Redskins returned it, got
distance added because of a penalty that also let them try a field
goal with no time left, and made the kick.
Once labeled an "idiot kicker" by then-teammate Peyton Manning, Vanderjagt got on Parcells' bad side by pulling a groin
muscle in training camp. He missed most of the preseason, then
missed two short potential winning kicks in overtime of the
Parcells made Vanderjagt inactive for the opener, then he kept
two kickers on the roster for the next game, using the other, Shaun
Suisham, strictly for kickoffs. Vanderjagt has handled all kicks
since Suisham was cut in mid-October.
Asked last week about getting Vanderjagt out of his rut,
Parcells said: "I don't have a Dr. Livingstone's frozen elixir. I
don't. I don't know what I can do. This guy is 36 years old and has
been kicking for a long time. He has his way of doing things.
Hopefully, things get a little bit better."
Gramatica was a third-round pick by Tampa Bay in 1999. He made
the Pro Bowl in 2001 and helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl in
2002. Since then, he is only 28-of-46.