There are so many reasons to hate Indianapolis Colts placekicker Mike Vanderjagt. In fact, the only reason to like him at all is that he is Canadian.
For someone who is not allowed to practice with the team, he is a cocky bastard. And for a cocky bastard he is just not that good. Yes, he has the record for consecutive field goals made. And yes, he technically is the most accurate kicker in NFL history percentage-wise. But that stat changes every few years; it was Morten Andersen for a long time, and then Jason Elam, and now Vanderjagt is on top, but he won't be for long. Why? Two reasons: arrogance and failure to make clutch kicks.
I remember the first time I ever gave Vanderjagt -- or any other kicker for that matter -- much thought. The Colts were playing in Buffalo against my beloved Bills in 2000. Vanderjagt kicked a game-winning field goal. Fine. That's his job. But what struck me was an interview with Vanderjagt after the game in which he said, paraphrasing, "I saw Doug Flutie on the sideline and I gave him a little head nod becuase I remembered him from the Canadian Football League. And then I said to him, 'I'm about to beat your team!' [Arrogant laughter]" I remember hating him that very moment. Most players, kickers especially, say something like "It was a good snap and the good lord blessed me by letting me put it through the uprights" but not Vandy.
Also, and if you ever watch a Colts game you'll notice this, whenever he makes a field goal, even a 24-yarder, he does a queer little high-five with his holder. It's just like the high five that Will and Jaz used to do on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air: you slap hands at waist-length and then release by snapping your fingers and tilting your body to the outside, while shooting your thumb out for all the world to see. It's all very idiotic.
Need I remind anyone of the incident in the 2002 playoffs when Vanderjagt tried to rally Colts QB Peyton Manning when the team was losing to the Jets at halftime? Then, when Peyton inexplicably didn't get all jazzed up because his kicker told him to, Vanderjagt got "liquored up" and went on Canadian TV to say Peyton Manning and coach Tony Dungy weren't winners, questioning their desire. (My respect for Manning went up a ton when he called Vanderjagt out on live TV at the 2003 Pro Bowl.)
And there was also the time where Vanderjagt kicked a game-winner against Denver in the 2002 season in the snow. The next day, he was on Dan Patrick's radio show and essentially said (again, paraphrasing), "It's about time I got some credit. I've been a good kicker for a long time, and people need to start noticing me!"
But if you couple this arrogance with Vanderjagt's complete ineptitude in any kind of clutch situation, you get a man who is more gabber than game-winner. Off the top of my head I can name games he has blown: Against the Dolphins in the 2000 playoffs, in that same playoff game against the Jets in 2002. He even missed one against Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football in 2003 that was luckily (and questionably) called back on a Tampa "leaping" penalty. (That game went into overtime and he made it only on his second attempt, but the consecutive FG record won't reflect that.) Bottom line: if an important game is on the line, Vanderjagt is not the one you want.
That's what made Thursday's NFL Kickoff game so satisfying: watching such an arrogant jerk miss a makeable field goal that could have tied the game with just seconds remaining. Ahhh... I love to see a man who brings attention to himself, only to be undone by his own hubris.