K Martin Gramatica owns most of the team's kicking records but has struggled the past two seasons
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Martin Gramatica have had many enjoyable days together. Tuesday was not one of them.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Bucs made the roster move that had become nearly inevitable, releasing the sixth-year kicker 11 games into the 2004 season. Gramatica leaves as the team's all-time leading scorer and the only Buc kicker ever to make the Pro Bowl, but his more recent efforts have been less successful.
To replace Gramatica, the Bucs signed first-year kicker Jay Taylor, who recently spent a week on the Bucs' practice squad.
General Manager Bruce Allen was scheduled to discuss the moves at a 4:00 p.m. press briefing. Buccaneers.com will provide further thoughts on the issue from the team's perspective after Allen's briefing.
Gramatica's departure comes two days after he missed three field goals from 39 yards or closer (one was blocked) in a 21-14 loss at Carolina. He connected on a 53-yard kick at New Orleans in Week Five but has since missed seven of his last nine, with the only two successful tries coming from 22 yards. In all, Gramatica finished his 2004 efforts in Tampa with 11 field goals in 19 tries and 21 extra points in 22 tries for a total of 54 points.
Though he watched Gramatica struggle on and off for the past two seasons, Head Coach Jon Gruden was surprised that the 2000 Pro Bowler never regained his form as a Buccaneer.
"It is just unfortunate that the kid has not been able to perform to the standards that he has in the past," said Gruden on Monday. "It's astonishing to me because he has been amazing here."
Gruden said the Buccaneers had to do whatever was necessary to correct their problems in the kicking game, given how close many games – and many playoff races – tend to be.
"I am not a mathematician, but the percentage of games that are decided by four or five points or less, is pretty revealing," he said. "If that's the phase of your football that is lacking or way behind – you're 32nd in accuracy – there's a good chance you are going to lose some tight games."
Taylor will be the first player other than Gramatica to kick for the Bucs since Doug Brien handled the final two regular season games in 2001. Gramatica missed those two games with a hamstring strain but otherwise handled the kicking chores in the other 96 games (including playoffs) since he was drafted in the third round in 1999.
Gramatica finishes as the franchise leader in career points, with 591, and the holder of most of the team's career and single-season records. His career standards include those for field goals (137), field goal attempts (179), extra points (180) and extra points attempted (182). He owns the top three single-season scoring marks in team history, led by 128 points in 2002, plus season records for field goals (32), field goal attempts (39), extra points (42) and extra points attempted (42). Other Buc records under Gramatica's name include most consecutive field goals made (16) and most consecutive extra points made (129). He was also 11 for 12 on field goals and 15 for 15 on extra points in seven postseason games.
Gramatica went to the Pro Bowl following the 2000 season, in which he connected on 28 of 34 field goals (82.4%), including five of seven from 50 yards or further, and all 42 of his extra point tries for 126 total points. He had a nearly identical season two years later in the Bucs' Super Bowl campaign, making 32 of 39 field goal tries (82.1%), including five of six from 50 yards or further, and all 32 of his extra point tries for 128 total points.
In 2003, Gramatica's field goal percentage dropped to a career-low 61.5%, as he made just 16 of 26 tries in a season that began with a training camp injury. He was healthy heading into 2004, however, and a nine-of-10 start kindled hope that he had regained his form. Unfortunately, two missed field goals in a 28-21 loss at St. Louis on October 18 started the a midseason slide.