The Cowboys Have Full Confidence In Brett Maher. Maybe. Possibly Not So Much.
9:04 AM EST on January 19, 2023
There are only a few ways for an NFL kicker to become truly memorable, and on Monday night Brett Maher hit on one of the bad ones. During the Cowboys' 31-14 playoff victory against the Buccaneers, Maher became the first player in NFL history to miss four extra points in a single game. He missed four in a row before finally making his last attempt of the game. The whole thing was incredible and oddly thrilling to watch, and left anyone who saw it with the distinct impression that something was wrong with Maher's body, brain, or both. It also left a big question hanging in the air: What would the Cowboys do about it?
The Cowboys will face the 49ers in a divisional round game on Sunday night, and they will not go into that game with the same room for error that they were blessed to have against an objectively mediocre Bucs team. The buzzsaw Niners haven't lost a game since October, and if the Cowboys are going to beat them it's going to be in the kind of game where an extra point or field goal makes all the difference. Kicker is an easy position on the roster to overlook for as long as the guy in the job is performing his basic duties more or less automatically. Introduce some real doubt about a kicker's ability to consistently knock in extra points, though, and suddenly it feels like one of the most important positions on the team.
So what should the Cowboys do? On the one hand, if Maher's issues on Monday night were in any way psychological, the team expressing full confidence in his abilities headed into the Niners game might go a long way toward getting his head right. It's nice to have the support of your colleagues. On the other hand, you can't mess around with this stuff! There are a lot of jobless kickers out there whom the Cowboys could sign right now; in theory any number of them could slide in on short notice and handle Maher's duties capably in San Francisco. (Then again, if theory were all that reliable, then Maher would be too.)
Shortly after the game on Monday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opted for the first course of action, telling reporters that the Cowboys would not be signing a new kicker before the Niners game. "No, no. We won't," Jones said when asked if the team would be looking at any kickers this week. "He's done enough good ones." Head coach Mike McCarthy expressed similar sentiments after the game, telling reporters that the plan was to stick with Maher at kicker. He reiterated that plan on Tuesday, saying that the team was going to "forge ahead" with Maher.
Given all those quotes, it was a little surprising to learn on Wednesday that the Cowboys had signed free-agent kicker Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad.
Maher will have to spend the next two days kicking in practice next to a guy who is trying to take his job, but then what? If he makes all those kicks, do the Cowboys head into the game on Sunday with Maher as the only kicker on the roster? What if the yips return in the first quarter? Is the ultimate plan to have both Vizcaino and Maher on the roster for that game, just in case? Will we see Jerry Jones choke to death on a hot dog on live television after he watches McCarthy bench Maher halfway through the game and then send Vizcaino out there to miss a game-winning field goal as time expires?
I don't envy anyone trying to navigate this situation, most of all Maher. He lived out the worst night of his career on Monday, spent all of the next 48 hours hearing about how his coach, owner, and teammates fully supported him, and then will show up to work today to find that some new guy is there trying to take his job. Good luck out there, buddy.