By yesterday’s signing of veteran kicker Shayne Graham, the Cowboys unofficially announced that they have no confidence in the young prospects currently on staff. It’s one thing to bring in another young guy such as Kai Forbath, but going the veteran route shows a philosophical shift likely brought on by growing concern. There is no position you can take lightly, but considering some of the tight points margins in last year’s losses you have to think there’s some unusual pressure on this particular roster decision.
With the new kickoff rules negating David Beuhler’s greatest asset, the opportunity was there for Dan Bailey to take the job had he shown a more reliable field-goal aptitude. He didn’t, and now the Cowboys have entered a very dangerous territory with just a few weeks left until Week One. The more time spent rotating and experimenting is less time you have to gain confidence in a single player. Therefore, when it comes time to make the final decision there may not be a great feeling about any one guy.
If you’re like me, the Graham signing immediately flashed the words “M-I-K-E V-A-N-D-E-R-J-A-G-T” on the mental marquee. I know it’s unfair to label Graham or any other veteran kicker based on that awful experience, but I’m sure many of you are like me and have soured on the idea of over-the-hill kickers. Throw in the bitter disappointment of the one-year tease from Nick Folk and this position has possibly been the most frustrating of any on the team over the last few seasons.
To Graham’s credit, he was 12-for-12 while playing for New England last year. However, the longest of those attempts was just 41 yards. Ten of those makes came from 20-39 yards. That is concerning, but you also have to consider that Beuhler’s biggest issues have been with kicks from those distances. Is it worth losing his incredible distance for reliability at close range? I’m sure some of you are nodding, but I’ll bet others are not so willing.
That Dallas was willing to sign Graham after the tryout makes it likely he will be our kicker next year barring injury or a meltdown in the final two preseason games. Even if Beuhler or Bailey were to go on a hot streak over the next two weeks, there’s over a month of evidence that works against them. Beuhler’s best hope will be that the NFL Rules Committee rescinds the new kickoff rules before the regular season, which isn’t as crazy as it sounds in light of the rampant criticism.
Maybe Graham will shock us and revert to his league-leading form. Maybe Kai Forbath, who could start the season on the practice squad, will suddenly emerge. Whatever happens, I fear the Cowboys will go into the 2012 offseason with no less uncertainty about this position than they have now.