Vandy doesn't do Dallas

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

In the end, his boot just couldn't live up to his bravado.

Oakville native Mike Vanderjagt may still statistically be the most accurate kicker in NFL history, but he's no longer good enough for the Dallas Cowboys.

Fed up with the struggles of the ex-Argo and Indianapolis Colt, coach Bill Parcells yesterday released Vande rjagt, who was in the midst of the worst season of his NFL career.

Signed in the off-season to a three-year, $5.4-million US deal, it was hoped Vanderjagt would be the savior to the Cowboys' kicking woes.

Instead, he turned out to be the opposite.

Good on just 13 of his 18 attempts for a career-low 72.2%, Vanderjagt looked anything like the player who was a perfect 37-for-37 with the Colts in 2003.

The low point came nine days ago, when Vanderjagt missed field-goal attempts of 43- and 46-yards in the Cowboys' win over his former team.

Vanderjagt, who won Grey Cups with the Argos in 1996 and 1997, lingered on the field for several minutes following the second miss as Colts players taunted him.

After the game, both Parcells and owner Jerry Jones openly questioned Vanderjagt's confidence.

"He definitely needs to get better," Parcells told reporters in Dallas last week.

Vanderjagt hit his only field-goal attempt in a Thanksgiving Day win over the Tampa Bay Bucs, but the modest 22-yarder just snuck inside the uprights.

With the Cowboys making their push for a first NFC East title since 1998, Parcells felt he could wait no longer.

The fact Dallas heads to New Jersey for a key divisional matchup with the Giants this Sunday only added to the urgency.

So the bombastic coach, who never warmed to Vanderjagt's attitude, pulled the plug yesterday and signed Martin Grammatica, a veteran hardly known for his accuracy.

If getting cut by the Cowboys wasn't enough of a blow to Vandy's ego, being replaced by any Grammatica would take care of that.

The release continued a stunning slide for Vanderjagt, whose brashness often landed him in hot water in Indianapolis, where he kicked for eight seasons.

When he missed a 46-yarder against Pittsburgh that would have sent last season's AFC Divisional playoff to overtime, Polian had all the ammunition he needed to release him.

When the Cowboys signed him as a free agent, Parcells hoped he had finally secured the solution to the kicking woes that had plagued the 'Boys the past two seasons.

The troubles began in training camp, when Vanderjagt was nursing a hamstring injury.

When the regular-season struggles refused to go away, the player Colts quarterback Peyton Manning once referred to as "liquored up" and an "idiot kicker" tried to stay positive.

He denied that the dramatic playoff miss the previous winter had dented his confidence, though his body language recently showed otherwise.

Now, at age 36, Vanderjagt may have to face the reality that his best years are behind him. Though his NFL career may not be done, the days of his seven-figure contracts likely are.

Vanderjagt's five misses this year included three that clunked off the upright and a fourth that was blocked.

Considering he missed just seven attempts in the past two seasons and his career accuracy rate of 86.5% is still tops in NFL history, it wasn't what the Cowboys had bargained for.

Yesterday, they cut their losses.


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