The Dallas Cowboys rolled some dice last Saturday night in Philadelphia. Thankfully for them, and for all of us, they hit. What dice did Dallas roll last week exactly? While the Cowboys did have something to play for against the Eagles, the “something” looked like it would be very difficult to obtain. Dallas had a playoff spot locked up, a home game at that, and playing to win carried with it the risk that any player or players could be hurt and lost for the entire tournament.
None of this is being said so as to re-litigate the merits of the team playing last week, spilled milk is spilled and this particular milk made our bones strong enough to be the three seed. The Cowboys are continuing their dice-rolling ways into the playoffs and doing so at an incredibly important position - kicker.
The Dallas Cowboys are willingly trusting Greg Zuerlein in the playoffs and whatever happens next is all on them
There is no perfect anything in the NFL. We are all humans and all flawed in our own ways. Quarterbacks throw interceptions, receivers drop passes, and running backs fumble. Bad things are going to happen at one point or another to everyone, it is just that some players are much better at having them not happen on a regular basis.
The Cowboys have seen a lot of bad things happen this season at one particular spot and it just so happens to be one that is tasked with scoring points for them. Greg Zuerlein has contributed to multiple losses this season, yet the team has continued to double down on him as their kicker.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said kicker Greg Zuerlein is a “pro from every angle. …If anything, you have to watch that he doesn’t do too much” in his preparation. “I have great confidence in him. He’ll be ready to go Sunday.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 10, 2022
Mike McCarthy offered vocal support for Zuerlein when he spoke on Monday, never mind the fact that the kicker missed yet again during the team’s win in Philadelphia. Zuerlein has now missed at least one kick in eight of the 16 games that he has played this season. Odds are literally 50-50 whether or not he will be completely reliable.
Facing facts, the Cowboys are way too deep into this thing to make a change. While it honestly doesn’t sound like the worst idea given the Zuerlein option, it would be irresponsible of the Cowboys to bring in someone new for a playoff game of all things. They have made this bed, and while we have been tossing and turning in it, they have been lying ever so peacefully which is the frustrating part.
Cowboys ST coach John Fassel confident in K Greg Zuerlein despite 6 missed PATs, 6 missed FGs in regular season. Takes misses to heart but believes Greg is capable, reliable option.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 10, 2022
"If I'm wrong, then I'll be wrong. But I really think I'm going to be right. I guess we'll see." pic.twitter.com/b202wnPNUa
Cowboys ST coach John Fassel when asked if it’s scary to be going into the playoffs and talking about their kicker still trying to find it: “If it was a rookie maybe but I think every kicker has kinda lost it before and they find it again. Tiger Woods a lot of times has lost it.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 10, 2022
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan: Greg Zuerlein’s struggles have “absolutely” altered our game plan. “He’s a sound kicker, experienced kicker, our guys are all sensitive about how to approach the game.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 11, 2022
“If a better alternative was out there, we’d be using it. Everything is at stake.”
If we are honest with ourselves there is no reason to be upset with Zuerlein anymore at this point. He is who he is. What do we expect? For him to openly say he isn’t cutting it and to give up his spot on the team?
The blame, and whatever fault may or may not come, lies with John Fassel and Mike McCarthy. They are continuing to go down this path despite the evidence proving to us how unreliable Zuerlein is. And for what? Because they do not want to make a change?
Again, it is impractical for the Cowboys to make an adjustment this week of all weeks. But they purposely created this situation where they are entering the playoffs - an extremely volatile environment - with a shaky and unpredictable kicker. John Fassel can make up whatever loose analogies he wants, his own “belief” in Zuerlein doesn’t change who he is.
Hopefully Greg Zuerlein makes all of his kicks in the postseason and this entire conversation is for nothing; however, if the entire season is any indicator then there is a moment where he is going to have to come up clutch.
Zuerlein has played in three playoff games and missed a kick in two of them (one of them coincidentally against the Cowboys). If you are looking for a silver lining, the lone game where he was perfect was the NFC Championship, a game that his team won thanks to an game-winning kick in overtime from him.
Please let that guy be the one who shows up for the next month.