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The Patriots Release Stephen Gostkowski

This sucks. I know this move will test well with a lot of focus groups of Pats fans. For the last few years, saying you want Stephen Gostkowski gone has been the New England version of a candidate saying they're going to Washington to fight for working families. An applause line every time you use it on the campaign trail, but utterly meaningless pandering unless you have a plan. 

The detractors got their wish last year, when Gostkowski was IR'ed with a bad hip after going 7 for 8 on field goals and an atrociAous 11 for 15 in extra points in the first month of the season. Without him, the Kellogg's Variety Pack of unemployed kickers they ran through missed two more XP's and went just 5 for 9 on kicks longer than 40 yards. Be careful what you wish for. 

The trip to the IR was necessary, and so, I assume, is this decision. When you're looking on LinkedIn for the ideal person to kick balls long distances with accuracy for you, it's rarely wise to set your search parameters for 36-year-olds with bad hips. 

And so with him following Tom Brady out the door, the last links to the early 2000s are now gone. Gostkowski was Brady's only teammate from both the 2007 16-0 team and the Super Bowl LIII championship team. He was drafted in 2006 to replace Adam Vinatieri and will forever be compared to him. What will be overlooked by just about everyone with the exception of me, is that he not only succeeded Vinatieri, he exceeded him. Not in terms of dramatic moments, but statistically.

One kicker will be remembered for game-winning kicks in Snow Bowls and Super Bowls until the universe collapses back on itself. And well he should. The other kicker will mostly be remembered for misses. That's the harsh reality and his record is his record. But the math doesn't lie. 

And for all Gostkowski's costly whiffs everyone can recite off the top of their heads like the missed XP at Denver in the AFC championship game that forced them to go for 2, just to name one. But we forget Vinatieri's misses. Like the two - from 31 and 36 yards, no less - he couldn't convert in the Super Bowl against Carolina that necessitated his game winner in the final seconds. But it is an inarguable, objective fact, that Gostkowski was a more accurate postseason kicker over the course of his career than the man he replaced. While spending a lot less time playing in a hermetically sealed dome. The science on that question is settled. 

In fact, Gostkowski is one of the most dependable kickers of all time. Also proven by the math. 

Remember him for the misses. Or for his struggles last year, if that's the kind of dark, grim, joyless soul you are cursed to walk the Earth as. I will forever remember that, with Super Bowl LIII against the Rams hanging in the balance, with the Patriots facing a 4th & inches on the LA 24 with 1:12 left and trying to decide what to do, Brady and Josh McDaniels wanted the ball in Gostkowski's feet. "We'll get the field goal," they said. "It's a 40 yarder. Then the game's over."

Good call. 

So one of the most successful special teams careers of all time comes to a close in New England. 14 years. 204 games. 28 postseason games. Five Super Bowl trips. Three rings. And the lifetime of friendship that can only come from that time he and I did a draft night appearance together and those times we talked in the locker room.

No matter where Stephen Gostkowski goes from here, e'll always have the Chinese restaurant in Saugus.