IRVING, Texas - A day after cutting the NFL’s most accurate kicker, Bill Parcells seemed relieved instead of frustrated.
Parcells was never impressed by Mike Vanderjagt, the high-priced kicker the Dallas Cowboys signed in March in hopes of solving a long-standing problem. Vanderjagt instead struggled, never gained the coach’s confidence and didn’t even make it through the season.
“Obviously, I feel better than having stayed the course the other way,” Parcells said Tuesday, the first time he spoke publicly since the Cowboys won Thanksgiving Day to take over first place in the NFC East.
Instead of Vanderjagt, the Cowboys (7-4) head into the playoff stretch — and Sunday’s key division game at the New York Giants — with Martin Gramatica, who has played only three games and kicked one field goal since 2004.
“I’m approaching it with a real positive attitude,” Parcells said.
So, does that mean Parcells has full confidence in Gramatica?
“I thought he was the best option available,” he said.
Even better than Vanderjagt, whose 86.5 percent career accuracy rate (230-for-266) is still tops in league history, along with his record of 42 consecutive makes.
Vanderjagt was only 13-of-18 in his 10 games for the Cowboys, the 72 percent rate the lowest in his nine NFL seasons. He had only seven misses the past three seasons in Indianapolis.
Vanderjagt missed two field goals in the first half against the Colts on Nov. 19, then four days later barely made a 22-yarder.
“The last four, five weeks, I don’t think he was hitting the ball, to the point where I think it made us play the game a little differently. And we just weren’t able to put him out there with a lot of confidence,” Parcells said. “It’s just a confidence thing. When it starts affecting how you’re playing, you’ve got to try something else.”
After being hurt and missing most of the preseason, Vanderjagt was inactive the first game. Three of his misses hit the upright and another was blocked, a potential game-winner in a loss at Washington on Nov. 5.
“There was a time during the early part of the season basically after preseason was over that it looked like things were going to sort themselves out,” Parcells said. “It just wasn’t consistent enough. I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it.”
Gramatica was at practice Tuesday, the first for the Cowboys after three straight days off.
Dallas players weren’t completely shocked by the kicking switch.
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