FOXBORO — Leave it to Bill Belichick  to answer a highly-debated question with several of his own. Such was the case Friday when he was asked if Adam Vinatieri  – and all of his huge kicks – deserves a bust in Canton when he finally hangs up the cleats.
“He’s certainly one of the greatest kickers I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in the league ‘ the longevity, the production, the performance in championships and big games,” Belichick said. “What more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? Is that what he needs to do? I don’t know. What more could he do? I don’t know what more Dave Jennings could have done at his position or Ray Guy or guys like that. What else would they have had to do? Get a bunch of interceptions? We don’t judge quarterbacks on their rushing yardage.
“We don’t judge them on how many tackles they made. I don’t know if we even judge them on how many games they win. We judge them on a lot of their quarterback rating and stats and running backs on rushing yardage. What does a guy have to do if he excels at his position? Is that good enough? I don’t know. Like I said, you’d have to ask somebody that knows a lot more about it than I do because I don’t understand what the criteria is.”
He left after the 2005 season and has been in Indianapolis ever since.
“I know it’s been a while,” Belichick said. “I’ve been fortunate to have two good kickers here, two real good kickers.”
Vinatieri is still making big kicks, including a game-winning 50-yarder with eight seconds left in regulation against Minnesota on Sept. 16 in a 23-20 Colts win.
“That was a big kick Adam made in overtime at the end of the [Minnesota] game, the 50-yarder,” Belichick said. “That was a big kick. I’ve seen him make a lot of those.”
At this point, only Jan Stenerud is the only “pure” placekicker in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda made it but he was a quarterback for the great Raiders teams of the 60s and early 70s. Lou Groza is in but he was also an offensive tackle. And perhaps most egregious, Ray Guy does not have a bust in Canton.
So, with what Vinatieri has accomplished, he’s a slam dunk to become the second place-kicker in the Hall, right?
“I think that’s a good question,” Belichick began. “I don’t know what Hall of Fame means. There are guys who have great, long careers. There are other guys with very short careers in the Hall of Fame; from championship teams, there are guys that never or hardly ever played on winning teams. There are guys with personal stats, there are guys with I’d say less personal stats but maybe more championships or more longevity. I don’t know what the criteria is for the Hall of Fame, I’m not in any position to be honest with you. That’s something you’d have to ask the Hall of Fame committee or voters or something like that, because I don’t really know what the criteria is. I don’t know if it’s ever been defined. I don’t know if it’s a popularity contest or if it’s a political thing. I don’t know what it is. It’s hard for me to believe that. as great as this game is, that there are no punters and one kicker in the Hall of Fame.
“We can argue that they only play ‘X’ number of plays and everybody else plays a different number of plays but they’re still significant players at their position. Again, what the criteria is for them, I don’t know. I think you’d have to ask somebody else. I have no idea, other than the Hall of Fame and they’re all, I’m not saying they’re not deserving. I’m saying what one guy does, what another guy does, what their careers were relative to all of it, different things we’ve talked about, I don’t see any consistency. Say, ‘OK, they met these three criteria. They need to meet three of the next six criteria.’ Whatever it is, I don’t know, but I don’t see that. You have to talk to somebody who knows a lot more about that than I do. I don’t understand it.
This will be the eighth time Vinatieri is kicking against the team with which he made his legend as the “best clutch kicker” of all time, kicking the game-tying and game-winning field goals in the snow against the Raiders in Jan. 2002 and booting the game-winning kicks in Super Bowl  XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII.
“When Adam was here, and I’m sure it’s the same [now], he trained hard, worked hard, kept himself in good condition, had good overall strength and certainly mental toughness and concentration and all those things. Technique, he can kick the ball straight. Haven’t seen any of that change too much. Might have lost a little bit of range but still he’s making 50-yard kicks. I’m sure they’re confident when they send him out here. I can understand that.”
As for his own kicker currently, Belichick appreciates how Stephen Gostkowski  doesn’t get too high or low, indirectly referencing the miss at the end of the Cardinals game and the tying and winning kicks against the Jets.
“Steve works hard and has been real consistent for us since the first year he got here,” Belichick said. “He’s really pretty much the same guy every day, doesn’t get too up, too down. He’s made a lot of big kicks for us, kicks well, not perfect but he hasn’t been too high on the highs or too low on the lows. He’s been very consistent with his work ethic, his discipline, his ability to adapt to different snappers, holders over the course of his career. And that’s something you can’t control as a kicker but you have to work with. He’s done a good job of that and hasn’t let it affect him, what he can control, which is his preparation and performance.”