Kicked to the Curb
Mike Vanderjagt just kept on being right. Which, ultimately, was wrong.
In a move that displays how serious the Cowboys are about winning a Super Bowl this season, Dallas cut the cockiest kicker in the history of the NFL Monday and signed--oh, dear--Martin Gramatica. Brace yourself for over-celebrated 21-yard field goals. On Tampa Bay's Super Bowl team in '02, "Automatica" Gramatica was known to perform herkeys after routine kicks. But at this point, anything will be better than watching Vanderjagt's failed smile and failed attempts.
Coach Bill Parcells arrived at training camp last July wearing a T-shirt that shouted "Who's All In?" Right from the start, Vanderjagt wasn't. He missed his first kick of camp, wide to the right. He missed two short field goals in the pre-season finale against Minnesota, both to the right. He missed five field goals, three off the--you guessed it--right upright. And on Thanksgiving Day, he barely sneaked an extra point and a 22-yard chip-shot field goal just inside the right post.
Last week Parcells said Vanderjagt deserved the benefit of the doubt. But after Thanksgiving's near-misses and the way the NFC East is opening up for the surging Cowboys, he couldn't afford to let a kicker with the yips cost him a game. See, quarterback Tony Romo, who watched the Mavs increase their win streak to 10 last night at American Airlines Center, has suddenly made everyone accountable.
The Cowboys will swallow Vanderjagt's $2.5 million signing bonus and, for now, put their wobbly faith in Gramatica--who hasn't held down a regular job since missing half his kicks from 30-39 yards in '04. Maybe the Cowboys should find Eddie Murray. And, definitely, they should've never fired former kicking coach Steve Hoffman. --Richie Whitt
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