We were spoiled. We can admit it. For so long the Dallas Cowboys had the luxury of an elite kicker in Dan Bailey who made extra points and field goals so routine that they became boring and an opportunity for us to duck out while watching to go to the restroom or get a snack. It has now been over three years since the team released him and it has been a rocky ride at kicker ever since.
Part of the reason that things were so turbulent early on post Bailey for the Cowboys was that they relied on a then 28-year-old rookie in Brett Maher. In the craziest phenomenon Maher was fairly unpredictable in a general sense, but had a leg that could seemingly will one from downtown in the most clutch moments. There is no real data to support this but it is how we all remember it.
Things were supposed to change for the Cowboys at the beginning of 2020 when they brought in a new kicker to go with their new special teams coordinator. John Fassel brought Greg Zuerlein with him to the Cowboys from the Los Angeles Rams and the days of Brett Maher were supposed to be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately they are not.
Greg Zuerlein is a less accurate kicker for the Dallas Cowboys than Brett Maher was
For context’s standpoint, we are having this discussion in the aftermath of this team’s Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders (just in case anyone is reading this from the future). Unfortunately in our current moment we have some very bad news to share!
You will recall that the Cowboys moved on from Brett Maher before the 2019 season even ended because things had become so erratic as far as his reliability was concerned. How would it make you feel if I told you that, to date, he was a more accurate kicker in a Cowboys uniform than Greg Zuerlein currently is?
Brett Maher with Cowboys (29 games):
- 68 of 69 on Extra Points (99%)
- 49 of 66 on Field Goals (74%)
- Missed at least one kick in 13 games (45% of time)
- 86.7% overall accuracy
Greg Zuerlein with Cowboys (26 games and counting)
- 55 of 61 on Extra Points (90%)
- 53 of 65 on Field Goals (82%)
- Missed at least one kick in 12 games (46% of time)
- 85.7% overall accuracy
It’s true that Maher struggled at the money kicks (field goals) but was at the very least consistent as far as extra points are concerned. Zuerlein is a more reliable field goal kicker than Brett Maher was overall, but the thing is that he is shaky at both of them. It’s impossible to know the ultimate impact of Zeurlein’s missed PAT on Thanksgiving.
Field goals are obviously more difficult than extra points, and extra points themselves have become more difficult ever since the league moved the attempt point back, but Zuerlein has struggled with these things consistently.
The truth is that Greg Zuerlein is mathematically a less accurate kicker than Brett Maher was AND that he misses a kick more frequently as far as a per game basis is concerned. That simply cannot be the case for a team that has goals of playing into February in a sport where the game can come down to these sort of situations.
None of this conversation is meant to argue that the Cowboys should try and bring back Maher (who incidentally kicked for the New Orleans Saints right after Dallas lost to the Raiders) or to say that Greg Zuerlein hasn’t contributed anything to the cause. Zuerlein has made some big kicks for this team, but the sample size is large enough at this point for us to draw some reasonable conclusions.
Greg Zuerlein may make a kick that the Cowboys need or he may miss something that feels inconsequential at the time but rears its ugly head when the game gets close. At this point, the Cowboys are almost flipping a coin as to whether or not he will miss a kick of some kind for them in a game and that feels rather irresponsible.