Former Patriots coach Bill Parcells came very close to making one of the worst decisions in franchise history back in 1996.
It was then, after three games in the regular season, that Parcells almost jettisoned rookie kicker Adam Vinatieri from the team for poor performance.
After a series of unforgettable kicks and three Super Bowl championships, it's nearly impossible to think of the success experienced by the Patriots franchise without Vinatieri. But if one of his kicks had gone askew 20 years ago, he may never have had the opportunity to develop into the local hero he has become.
According to WFAN host Mike Francesca, via the New York Daily News, Parcells was frustrated with Vinatieri, an undrafted rookie out of South Dakota State, because he missed three field goals in a Week 2 loss to the Bills. The following week, despite having a 28-0 lead over the Cardinals, Parcells trotted Vinatieri out onto the field to try a 31-yarder late in the game.
"He told him, 'You better make this field goal,'" Francesca said on Monday, recalling a conversation he had with Parcells about the kick.
The implication was clear: Make it or you're gone.
Vinatieri made the kick, the Patriots won the game 31-0, and he saved his career. Who knows where the Patriots franchise would be at this point had he missed and been given his walking papers.
Vinatieri also went on to win a Super Bowl with the Colts. The NFL's oldest active player, he holds NFL records for most postseason points and most overtime field goals made. He's also the only player to ever score over 1,000 points with two teams.