When the Dallas Cowboys cut Dan Bailey this September, a fuss was made by many. The Star-Telegram said that the Cowboys “shocked the world” with this move. Indeed, people from Seattle to Bombay and Bangkok stopped what they were doing and petitioned world leaders to plea for Jerry Jones to bring back his field goal kicker.
Or, you know, he wasn’t the best person for the job anymore.
Bailey was history’s most accurate kicker, but also coming off of an injury-shortened season in which he went 15-of-20 on field goals and missed two extra points. After missing four games with a groin injury, Bailey went 5-of-7 on PATs and 7-of-12 on FGs in the final four games. In New York, Bailey missed from 50 and 53, plus a PAT. In Philadelphia, Bailey missed from 23 and missed a PAT.
Instead, Dallas went with Brett Maher this season and he’s 27-of-32, including 5-of-6 from beyond 50, and he made a 62-yarder on Sunday that helped Dallas get to OT and defeat the Eagles.
Things are not going so well for Bailey, and that was well before Bobby Wagner leapt over the Minnesota Vikings offensive line to block a kick in the fourth quarter on Monday. Many are arguing that the leap was a penalty because he puts his hands on his teammates while he leapt, but others are saying that because he did not appear to bear weight on them in order to gain height for the leap, that it is not a penalty.
I’m here to tell you that it might not matter either way. Bailey had a low probability to make the kick and the Vikings still had a chance to win the game even after the block.
Minnesota signed Bailey in Week 3 after rookie Daniel Carlson went 0-for-3 in a 29-29 tie against the Packers in Green Bay. Carlson missed from 48 and 49, but most importantly missed a 35-yarder as time expired in overtime that would’ve won the Vikings the game. Shades of Blair Walsh were enough for the Vikings to react quickly to a tie game against a division rival.
Carlson’s response: He’s 10-of-11 with the Oakland Raiders and overall this season he’s 20-of-20 on PATs. He’s 7-of-8 outdoors since that fateful day in Lambeau.
Bailey has not been nearly so good on the road.
Going into Monday, Bailey had been 16-of-22 on field goal attempts with one missed PAT. And since a September road game in Sunny Los Angeles where he went 3-for-3, Bailey was 9-of-13 on the road, with seven of those made attempts coming from under 40 yards. This is Dan Bailey on the road this season. Remember: During Monday’s kick attempt, he was 47 yards away from the goal post.
Bailey hit from 37, 39, and 40 in Los Angeles.
Bailey hit from 22, 37, and 52 in Philadelphia. Missed from 28, 45.
Bailey hit from 22, 26, and 43 in New York. Missed from 42.
Bailey hit two 36 yarders in Chicago.
Bailey hit from 39 in New England. Missed from 48.
Overall, Bailey is 2-of-5 from outside of 40 yards in outdoor conditions since the end of September. He’s hit from 43 and 52, while missing from 42, 45, and 48. What really were his odds to make that kick on Monday, on the road, outdoors, at night, in Seattle, during or just after a light rain, from 47 yards?
It’s interesting that Pete Carroll and Wagner even felt he needed to attempt the leap. But he did, it worked, he blocked it, and the Seahawks got the ball back. And let’s not forget that the game was far from over. The score was 6-0 at that point and there was 5:38 remaining on the clock. The Vikings had their chance to get yet another stop and to get the ball back. They also could have been down 6-3 instead of 6-0 but as Anthony McFarland and Jason Witten argued, Minnesota chose to go for it on their previous drive instead of giving Bailey a chip shot field goal attempt.
Instead, when Seattle got the ball back, the Vikings forgot that Russell Wilson’s arm isn’t his only weapon. On the second play after the block, Wilson ran 40 yards. Then Chris Carson carried it five straight times, gaining 21 yards and scoring a touchdown that led to a two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead. That — and Justin Coleman’s touchdown — sealed the win for Seattle.
Not the block. Which, given everything we know about the kicking situation Minnesota and Bailey were facing, was less likely than likely to have been good anyway.