But, short of a straight-up endorsement, he advocated in every other way Friday when asked about former New England kicker Adam Vinatieri and whether the sure-footed field goal-maker should have a spot in the Hall of Fame. The normally reserved Belichick gave a solid argument for Vinatieri’s inclusion.
“He’s certainly one of the greatest kickers I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in the league — the longevity, the production, the performance in championships and big games,” Belichick said. “What more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? Is that what he needs to do? I don’t know. What more could he do?
“I don’t know what more Dave Jennings could have done at his position or Ray Guy or guys like that. What else would they have had to do? Get a bunch of interceptions? We don’t judge quarterbacks on their rushing yardage. We don’t judge them on how many tackles they made. I don’t know if we even judge them on how many games they win. We judge them on a lot of their quarterback rating and stats and running backs on rushing yardage.
“What does a guy have to do if he excels at his position? Is that good enough? I don’t know.”
Vinatieri smashed in 81.9 percent of his kicks with the Patriots, including 18 game-winning field goals with less than a minute to go. Considered a true clutch player, he had the winner in the “Tuck Rule game” and the first two of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl victories. After he moved on to the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent, he continued to be one of the game’s best kickers, forging a long, consistent career to go along with his performances in the biggest games.
Belichick admitted that it’s hard for kickers to get into the Hall of Fame due to the tradition and a criteria that even he couldn’t define.
“I don’t know what Hall of Fame means,” he said. “There are guys who have great, long careers. There are other guys with very short careers in the Hall of Fame, from championship teams. There are guys that never or hardly ever played on winning teams. There are guys with personal stats. There are guys with I’d say less personal stats but maybe more championships or more longevity. I don’t know what the criteria is for the Hall of Fame. I’m not in any position, to be honest with you. … It’s hard for me to believe that, as great as this game is, that there are no punters and one kicker in the Hall of Fame.”
Vinatieri will have to wait until his career is over to see whether he’s deemed worthy — but while the Hall of Fame may not be a lock just yet, he certainly has Belichick’s vote.