Kickers may be the most loved and loathed players in football. Fans love their kicker when he makes a clutch kick late in the game, but they hate him just as much when he misses. Then you have how Dallas Cowboy fans probably feel about Greg Zuerlein following Thursday night’s 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers.
Zuerlein missed two field goals and an extra point in the loss. But to be fair, one of the misses was an ill-advised 60-yard attempt late in the second quarter. However, if you do the math, the four points the Cowboys lost when he missed those kicks proved crucial.
After the game, Zuerlein did not shy away from the reality of the game (via The Athletic):
“No excuses. If I’m out there, I should make the kicks. No excuses. … I know we played well enough to win. If I did my job, we win that game. I feel bad for the guys in there that played their ass off, and I didn’t hold up my end of the deal. If the team that that’s good, returning every player after a Super Bowl victory, and we’re right there, I just have to do my job.”
As nice as it is that he has taken responsibility, it is fair to wonder how the team should proceed. While it would have been just one win, a victory over a team everyone expected to beat you is huge. It could have given the Cowboys a leg up in a potential wildcard race (if they do not win the NFC East).
So, the question Jerry Jones may be pondering now is whether he wants to risk losing a game the team should have won again? Does he want to give Zuerlein another chance or cut him loose and go with someone new?
Friday morning, during an appearance on a local radio station, 105.3 The Fan, Jones talked about his kicker:
“I felt like we paid the price of not really having our kicker during training camp… The loss isn’t to be blamed on the kicker.”
Jones went on to say that he still believes in Zuerlein and making it sound like the team has no intention of kicking the tires on anyone else. While fans may not like the sound of that, it may not be such a bad idea.
Zuerlein ranked fifth according to PFF amongst kickers last season with a grade of 76.1 (as it pertains to kicking field goals and extra points. With Thursday night’s miss included, as his tenth season in the NFL gets underway, he has missed just ten extra points.
His field goal percentage was just the 17th best last season, but none of the 16 guys with a better percentage had as many attempts as he did (41; closest was 37 by Rodrigo Blankenship).
Historically, Zuerlein is a good kicker. Cutting him loose now may be more likely to cause problems for the Cowboys down the road. So, for the time being, the smart move is to hold onto him.