INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich has gone from defending struggling kicker Adam Vinatieri earlier this season to now not speaking with as much certainty about his future with the franchise.
Vinatieri continued his season-long problems when he missed another extra point in the Colts’ 16-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Vinatieri’s missed extra point ruined a chance for the Colts to have an opportunity to kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. Needing a touchdown to win, the Colts were stopped on fourth down at Miami’s 8-yard line with 40 seconds left in the game.
“Really, no comment,” Reich said. “We’ve been committed to [Vinatieri]. We’re going to always evaluate. Everybody gets measured. Everybody is held accountable, from top to bottom. That’s always the case. Nothing meant to read into that. That’s the reality of the business. There’s been no discussions about that between [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and I. That’s just the business.”
Of all the problems the Colts were expected to endure this season following Andrew Luck’s retirement, kicking wasn’t on the list with the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, Vinatieri, on the roster.
But Vinatieri, instead, has turned into almost a weekly issue for the Colts. He has missed six extra points and five field goals.
Five of Vinatieri’s six missed extra points have come when the game was within three points, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He is making just 16.7 percent of his extra points in those situations. Every other kicker in the NFL with at least two extra-point kicks has made over 75 percent of their attempts in that scenario.
The Colts are 5-4, a full game behind Houston (6-3) in the AFC South, but Vinatieri has been responsible for two of the losses — against the Chargers in Week 1 and the Steelers in Week 9 — and potentially Sunday’s loss to Miami with the missed extra point.
“It’s fine. It’s there,” Vinatieri said about his confidence level. “It’s not a matter of that. It’s just a matter of executing.”
When asked if he’s been dealing with any injuries, Vinatieri said, “We don’t talk about injuries one way or another. I’m healthy enough to be out on the field.”
One of Ballard’s strongest attributes has been a desire to push for competition on the roster. That hasn’t been the case for Vinatieri outside of when they worked out six kickers prior to Week 3. Reich acknowledged earlier in the season that there are different standards for Vinatieri because of the success he’s had during his 24-year playing career.
But staying loyal to Vinatieri has already cost the Colts this season, and it may hurt them more come December when they’re trying to make the playoffs.
“It’s the track record, and it’s what we see in practice,” Reich said. “I believe this guy, mentally, to be one of the toughest guys to ever play. To do what he’s done in his career. That’s what’s going into [sticking with him]. There was a stretch there of about four or five weeks where the operation was good for four or five weeks there. These misses have come in small bunches. There is an expectation there. We need to make those.”