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Do Cowboys Need A 'Thor' At Kicker? Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 07:05 am
The Cowboys' endless search for a kicker now includes the preseason employment of the absurd total of four of them. Eight legs running around (or limping around, as injuries are a factor here) all in search of one leg. And it all begins with the mercurial David Buehler, who at this moment possesses all of those marvelous physical tools, all of those well-developed muscles... and all the Cowboys really need of him is a toe.

The fact that former draftee Buehler can run down the field like a tight end and can lift weights like a linebacker and looks, when shirtless, like he's auditioning for "Bachelor Pad," all seems, at this moment, unnecessarily excessive. It's like the Cowboys have put in a call for a simple handyman and the guy who shows up at the door is Thor.

"Whoever wields this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!"

"Yeah, yeah, dude. Can you just go ahead and hang the sheetrock, already?"

While the Cowboys wait on Buehler and his hip injury (and also ponder whether the new kickoff rule that means a mere mortal ought to be able to record touchbacks might render the boomer less uncommon), they are buying up kickers like Warren Buffett is buying up guaranteed payoffs... except with the Cowboys, there are no guarantees.

New signee Shayne Graham is a career 86-percent field-goal kicker. But that's putting a happy face on this; his high percentage is built on career success he hasn't achieved in three years. He does have a track record, though; Graham at his best -- if that is still achievable -- is capable of Pro Bowl accuracy.

"We feel good about Shayne and what he has a done in this league," coach Jason Garrett says. "He has been a good kicker for a number of years. He kicked well in the tryout. We want to see him in practice and see how he responds on this team."

How about the rookie Dan Bailey? He made an early-camp impression, but if Dallas truly believed in him, it wouldn't have signed Graham.

How about another kid, Kai Forbath? He hasn't kicked in a game yet, has his own injury issue, and would seem to be fourth on the kickers depth chart.

To emphasize the point: I've covered the NFL for 27 years. I do not believe I've ever written the phrase "fourth on the kickers depth chart" before.

Due to what might be their overall slim margin for error, the Cowboys are in no position to give much slack to Bailey or Forbath. Due to the lateness of the hour -- Dallas has just two preseason games left, including Saturday's meeting with Minnesota -- the Cowboys are in no position to experiment much at all.

Ultimately, the race would seem to be between a hopefully-rebounding Graham and a hopefully-healthy Buehler.

"I'm confident," says Graham. "I know what I can do. I know I'm better than what I showed (in Washington)."

While Graham is confident, Buehler is reportedly miffed -- at both how his fate is tied to injury and how the acquisition of Graham would seem to indicate a lack of faith in him. But there is no shame in the fact that the Cowboys have now run five kickers through camp this year and seem to be in search of new answers every fall, old guys, young guys, little guys, guys who appear to be straight out of a workout dvd. A kicker isn't a quarterback; they are interchangeable enough that maybe the Cowboys never should've spent picks on the likes of Buehler and Nick Folk, opting instead for someone off the street, like Chris Boniol -- the last real "perennial" Cowboys kicker who performed here so long ago as a Super Bowl winner that he's now matured into a coach on the Dallas staff.

Rule changes make kickoffs easier. Buehler's athleticism -- hey, he's like having an extra tackler on the coverage team! -- is largely rendered moot. No matter who wins the job, this much is clear: The Cowboys don't necessarily need a Thor-like hammer at kicker. A simple handyman will do.

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