The Dallas Cowboys released former kicker Dan Bailey after the 2017 season, but his shadow looms large each time Brett Maher attempts a kick.
Bailey took over kicking duties going into the 2011 season, and as shown in Louis Bien’s SBNation.com piece, he became the most accurate kicker in NFL history during the 2014 season. Anytime he attempted a kick inside of 50 yards, it was shocking if he missed.
The one potential kink in his armor was his leg strength. There were times when Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett frustrated the heck out of fans by opting to punt instead of trying a long field goal with Bailey. Even with that, it was worth the trade-off for Bailey becoming Mr. Automatic inside of 50-yards.
Fast forward to the 2017 season and Bailey was hampered pretty much all season with a groin injury. He wasn’t his usual self and struggled during the season with his accuracy that dipped below 80 percent for the first time in his career per NFL.com.
Surprisingly, that next offseason, Bailey was cut in favor of Brett Maher. Whether is was injury or savings to the salary cap, Bailey would have counted $3.4 million versus $480,000 for Maher, they Cowboys made one of the boldest offseason moves in league as shown in this USAToday.com story.
Ever since that move, the demeanor of fans have totally changed when it’s time to attempt a field goal. Maher has a very strong leg and set the Cowboys record for longest field goal with a 62 yard make against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This issue with Maher isn’t his ability to give us a chance to make long field goals he might make, but rather his inconsistency in the ones that he should make. In his first year, he only made 23 out of 29 field goals inside of 50 which is worse than every season for Bailey.
Bailey has moved on to the Minnesota Vikings, but his shadow of near perfection is still looming in Dallas. His shadow rears its head on every single kick that Maher attempts and his name comes up every time Maher misses a kick everyone knows Bailey would have made.
This is probably very unfair to Brett Maher, but this isn’t about fairness, it’s about winning.