Mike Vanderjagt, record-setting NFL field goal kicker, watched with everyone else Wednesday as the Indianapolis Colts cut ties with his former teammate, quarterback Peyton Manning.
Vanderjagt, who lives on Marco Island, lauded his former teammate as a future Hall of Famer.
“I guess he could see the writing on the wall the last couple of months,” Vanderjagt said. “It is the harsh realization that anyone can go, at any time, it’s a matter of fact in the world of the NFL.
“We played together eight years and won a lot of games.”
Indianapolis needed to cut Manning this week to avoid paying him a $28 million bonus, although team owner Jim Irsay and Manning said it was not really about the money. The Colts are expected to choose Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the NFL Draft in April.
When asked if Manning would be rated as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Vanderjagt said, “he should be in the top five of all time. The problem with judging (greatness) is because most quarterbacks are judged by the number of Super Bowls won. Peyton won a Super Bowl and was in the final game in a second. Joe Montana would be my number one.”
Vanderjagt is known for his run-in with Peyton Manning, maybe more than his record-setting field goal record.
After the Colts were eliminated in the 2002 playoffs by the Miami Dolphins, Vanderjagt gave an interview to a Toronto cable network. In it he criticized Manning and Colts coach Tony Dungy for not being fiery leaders.
Manning was being interviewed for the season-ending Pro Bowl when he called Vanderjagt “our idiot kicker who ran his mouth off.”
The ensuing national publicity was astounding to Vanderjagt, who was about to start his record 2003 season.
“It happened between him and me,” Vanderjagt said. “It was like two brothers having an argument, but it became a national argument.”
In 2003 Vanderjagt became the first kicker in league history to go an entire season without missing a field goal or extra point. He finished the regular season with 37 field goals and 46 PATs.
“I talked myself into trouble and I kicked my way out of it,” Vanderjagt said.
He continued his record in 2004, kicking five more field goals before a miss. He became a free agent in 2006 and signed with the Dallas Cowboys. He sustained a groin injury that caused him to miss two weeks. Vanderjagt struggled that year, and the Cowboys released him in the 12th week.
As to where Manning might play next season, one of the teams mentioned is Miami.
“If he ends up in Miami I will invite him to Vandy’s (Vanderjagt’s MarcoIsland restaurant). A lot of people will want his autograph.”
Vanderjagt became the Marco Island Charter School’s first football coach, leading his team to a 7-1 record last fall. This year he will coach the Charter School and the new Marco Island Academy High School’s first team.