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Brett Maher’s success a testament to unconventional wisdom

The Cowboys kicker has defied all expectations in his surprising return to the team.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

One of the Dallas Cowboys’ most criticized moves from the past offseason was reuniting with former kicker Brett Maher. Once dumped mid-season for his erratic performance, Maher returned in 2022 and is currently one of the most accurate kickers in the league. It’s a perfect example of how scouts and coaches can sometimes see what we can’t.

Before Maher rejoined the roster, Dallas had certainly backed itself into a corner with its kicking situation. Veteran Greg Zuerlein was released back in March for his own accuracy issues during a two-year run with the team. The Cowboys took a seemingly passive approach to replacing Zuerlein, adding the inexperienced Chris Naggar and UDFA Jonathan Garibay.

Shortly after the draft, Dallas cut Naggar and left Garibay unchallenged for most of the summer. They would sign a familiar face in Lirim Hajrullahu, who had been a camp leg in 2021 for Zuerlein, but would soon realize that neither of their competitors for the kicking job was winning the battle.

After getting released by the Cowboys in December of 2019, Brett Maher wandered around different teams’ practice squads for a year and a half. It wasn’t until late 2021 that he finally got back into games, appearing in eight for the New Orleans Saints and making 16-of-18 of his field goals. Despite his work, he went unsigned throughout most of 2022 free agency.

Whether they’d always kept an eye on Maher or rediscovered him from that solid showing with New Orleans, Dallas finally gave him a call in August when their present options weren’t inspiring confidence. They immediately waived Garibay and released Hajrullahu a couple of weeks later.

There was no lack of head-tilting and eye-rolling with the decision to reunite with Maher. It’s one thing to kick the tires on someone else’s used vehicle, but who goes to the lot and buys one that they’d previously owned?

Clearly, the Cowboys saw something in Maher’s 2021 performance to even make the call. And once he got here, they saw enough to trust him with a critical role in deciding game outcomes. So far, their faith has been richly rewarded.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After only being a 74% field goal kicker during his 2018-2019 run with Dallas, Maher is currently at 88% this season. He’s 15-of-17 on field goals and 11-of-12 on extra points, and the only miss on the XPs was one that was blocked.

Even on the two missed field goals, both were from 59 yards out and in outdoor stadiums. On the whole, Brett has been drilling his kicks with confidence and astounding consistency given his former performance. His 50-yard game-winner in Week 2 against the Bengals was the top moment so far.

Again, this is coming from a guy that the rest of the NFL barely sniffed during the offseason. Even the Cowboys waited until they were absolutely desperate to bring Maher back.

Kicking has always been an enigmatic position among its football peers. While beliefs about scheme fit and surrounding talent have helped other players get second, third, or more chances throughout the league, kickers have a harder time with multiple opportunities. Flaming out with just one team can sometimes be enough to end a career.

As a 32-year-old free agent who’d gone unsigned until August, Brett Maher must have wondered if his NFL Days were over. But thankfully, his confidence doesn’t appear remotely phased by that experience. He’s playing at a higher level than ever before and the Dallas Cowboys are benefiting greatly from this unlikely reunion.

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