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Football

The Cowboys Really Might be Doing the Brett Maher Thing Again, Huh?

Tell us you're out of ideas without telling us you're out of ideas.
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Meet the new kicker, same as the old kicker. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason is winding down, with today marking the penultimate cut deadline before teams pare their rosters to a final count of 53 next Tuesday. The big news coming out of Cowboys camp is the release of kicker Liram Hajrullahu, who departs two weeks after Dallas waived rookie free agent Jonathan Garibay, the other half of the camp-opening competition to replace Greg(ory) “The Leg(ory)” Zuerlein.

Which, if you’re keeping score at home, means the last man standing at the position is new-old kicker Brett Maher, who was brought in to replace Garibay.

Yes, that Brett Maher, who got axed midway through the 2019 season thanks to a 66.7 percent field-goal rate that ranked dead last among kickers with 15 or more attempts.

Brett Maher, whose failure prompted the team to shell out good money to land Zuerlein, who was both a marked improvement over what Maher delivered in 2018 and ’19 and still underwhelmed enough to possibly cost Dallas the top seed in the NFC last season.

Brett Maher, who makes this Thanos meme ring truer than any man ever has.

There’s a reason this headline contains a hypothetical. Thirty-one other teams are cutting players, too, and a fair number of kickers will hit the open market between now and next Wednesday. The possibility exists that the Cowboys could scoop one of them up and install that player as their kicker. It’s also possible that Maher’s relative resurgence in New Orleans, where he made 16 of 18 attempts last season over eight games as a fill-in for injured starter Wil Lutz, laid the foundation for a new and improved Brett Maher, one who now pairs accuracy with the famously powerful leg that has drilled the four longest field goals in franchise history.

But even if that’s the case and this does work out, it won’t erase an alarming process failure. The Cowboys’ initial answer to one of last season’s most glaring problems was to invest zero resources in the position and pit two unproven camp bodies against one another. The predictably terrible outcome led them to scrap that plan in a matter of weeks, whereupon they pivoted back to—of all people—the very person who kicked off this carousel of mediocrity. All of which is before the additional element of failure that comes if Maher makes the roster, either through more awful results on the field or satisfactory ones that the organization can take as an endorsement of its original broken strategy.

Like several other areas on this roster, this is a mess of the Cowboys’ own making. And the closer Brett Maher gets to a starting job, the less interest they’ll have in cleaning any of it up.   

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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