When Dez Bryant was released by the Dallas Cowboys, a calculated move that was processed on a Friday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to have my former radio show “Upon Further Review” to share my immediate thoughts. I don't remember much of what I said, speaking from the heart about a player that meant so much to the organization, but I know for certain I prefaced everything by saying that Bryant's release was something that still needed processing.
It’s been a few hours and I’m still shocked by what happened with Dan Bailey. All we can do is speculate but it just never seemed like it was a true competition. Not sure what Bailey did to lose his job. #cowboyswire
In a stunning change of faith at the kicker position, the Cowboys release of Dan Bailey yesterday drew the same reaction from many – Cowboys fans or not. When Cowboys games came down to field goals, with just as many people rooting for America's Team to lose in spectacular fashion as well as triumph, it was so often Bailey's foot that delivered for Dallas.
By aggressively churning their roster, the Cowboys list of players they've let down with missed opportunities in the playoffs has grown, and it's unfortunate that the second most accurate kicker in NFL history must now be added to this list. Officially, Dan Bailey made ten go-ahead field goals in either the fourth quarter of a Cowboys win or in overtime.
His replacement, Brett Maher, has never kicked a field goal in a regular season game in the NFL, despite being on three teams. One of these teams was the Cowboys, as Maher was a member of the squad for the preseason in 2013.
At the time, he was the proverbial “warm body” to kick field goals while Bailey healed from an injury. Ask even the most loyal Nebraska Cornhusker fans (there are plenty of those), and they would have told you Maher was doing much of the same with the Cowboys this time around.
Bailey never will get his chance to fully recover and take back his job with the Cowboys though, as Maher became the team's biggest winner at cut down time on Saturday. For a club that constantly talks about competition and accountability, their move to replace Bailey lacks both, as no public kicking competition was known about in Dallas.
Billy Cundiff and Zane Gonzalez are two NFL kickers that Maher was unable to beat out in stops away from the Cowboys to earn a starting job. Cundiff is now retired, and Gonzalez is still the starter for the Cleveland Browns.
Maher's starts have all been in the CFL, appearing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ottawa Redblacks, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Maher scored all 18 points for the expansion Redblacks in their first ever win back in 2014, hitting from 23 yards out to win the game.
It took Dan Bailey until the end of 2016 (his sixth year kicking for the Cowboys) to miss as many field goals as Maher did in just two seasons at Nebraska, where he played before entering the NFL and CFL. Maher's 19 of 23 performance on field goals in 2011 earned him conference kicker of the year as a Junior.
He also punted for Nebraska for two seasons.
Maher was 4-5 on field goals this preseason for the Cowboys. His make from 57 yards out in Houston was the last low-pressure kick he'll hit in some time for the team. What seemed like a nice moment for the UDFA to gain some confidence resulted in Maher replacing a former undrafted success story in Bailey.
Welcome to the franchise that gets the most attention on a weekly basis, Mr. Maher. You're the starting kicker for the Dallas Cowboys now.
As mentioned, there's not a single part of this story that seems probable, or even believable at this point still. Reconciling the widespread feelings of disdain towards a Cowboys team that owed Bailey much better – by realizing that Maher is going through the same disbelief – certainly helps.
In one week's time, the Cowboys will be opening their season with a tough NFC match up at the Carolina Panthers. For the first time in years, the team's defense is less of a concern than the offense for this game. A key piece to their scoring ability ever since 2011, Dan Bailey's absence only adds to the uncertainty on this side of the ball, as Brett Maher will be the next man up kicking for the Cowboys.