The Minnesota Vikings have a long history of issues at kicker. Indeed, one might even say that it has been the team’s kryptonite. During the 2020 season, the kicking woes continued to assert itself. Dan Bailey, at one time a historically great kicker, had a really tough second half of the season. The Vikings thus head into their off-season with plenty of questions, kicking foremost among them.
Should Dan Bailey Still be the Minnesota Vikings Kicker?
By the end of the season, most fans were holding their breath every time the Vikings had to kick. He missed a field goal and two extra points in Week 13. He missed three field goals and an extra point in Week 14. He bounced back in Week 15 with a perfect day, but Week 16 and Week 17 had three missed kicks. What happened?
“Kirk Cousins doin The Griddy will be the talk of the day…”
Dan Bailey: “Hold My Beer” pic.twitter.com/AVI34GOkoy
— Ron Johnson (@3RonJohnson) January 3, 2021
In 2019, Bailey was rock-solid. He hit 93.1% of his field goals and 90.9% of his extra points. Bailey’s late season struggles brought his overall 2020 percentages down by a considerable margin: 68.2% on field goals and 86% on extra points. At the end of the season, there was some discussion of a lingering injury, which certainly explains some of the issues.
Moreover, Ryan Longwell – a former NFL kicker who played 16 years in the NFL, six of which were in Minnesota – came out in mid-December to say that Bailey’s kicking issue was easily correctable. After the Week 13 and 14 struggles, Bailey seemed to correct these issues, temporarily restoring confidence. Perhaps it was the injury that led to his struggles in Week 16 and 17.
Dan Bailey now 14 of 21 on the season (66.7%) pic.twitter.com/hZ5UqYSfOF
— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) January 3, 2021
A large part of the issue is that Minnesota is looking to compete in the short-term. If this was a team that was fully rebuilding, then perhaps there wouldn’t be the same since of urgency. This isn’t the case, though. Both Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman are on the hot seat. If the team doesn’t play well in 2021, fans should expect the Wilfs to find new leadership for their franchise. Can Zimmer and Spielman afford to be patient with Bailey?
The Path Forward
Zimmer is going to need to find a balance. He cut Daniel Carlson after a couple shaky weeks back in 2018. Carlson is now doing really well for Jon Gruden’s Las Vegas Raiders. They need to avoid the same mistake with Bailey. The Vikings simply can’t afford to cut a kicker who has the capacity to return to strong play.
That being said, the Minnesota Vikings also can’t afford to continue with a lackluster kicker. The solution, then, involves pursuing a middle way. The Vikings should bring in legit competition during the offseason. It likely isn’t an accident that Bailey’s strong 2019 season came after he successfully fended off Kaare Vedvik for Minnesota’s kicking job. Spielman traded a fifth-round pick to get Vedvik, so the team was obviously hopeful that he could be their kicker. Bailey stepped up, though, playing considerably better than the younger Vedvik. He went on to convert over 90% of his kicks.
Zimmer and Spielman should thus pursue a similar strategy. Bring in someone to compete with Bailey, preferably as a cheap FA or an UDFA. Hold a legitimate competition in the off-season and let the best kicker win the job. Perhaps this strategy will lead to greater success in the 2021 season.
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