Frisco, TX – The message has been consistent. But the tone was different.
the Dallas Cowboys He expressed no plans Tuesday to move on from kicker Brett Maher after he became First player in NFL history to miss four extra point attempts in a game since the league began recording statistics 91 years ago.
There was team owner Jerry Jones, on his early morning radio show, cautioned against moving too quickly away from a player who completed 50 of 53 extra attempts in the regular season, as well as 29 of 32 field goals.
“But we’ll take a look at it,” Jones said on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “It would be a really big setback to go into the rest of this tournament and the rest of the playoffs with a shake-up in the kicker.”
There was manager Mike McCarthy, who said Monday night from the Raymond James Stadium stand that Maher was “disappointed, but we need him.” On Tuesday, McCarthy further reiterated his belief in Maher’s process, and the kicker’s ability to bounce back after the worst night of his career.
“I think the most important thing is to make sure you have a good plan with Bret moving forward,” said McCarthy. “We’ll go ahead. That’s the plan so far.”
The qualifying phrase, “As of now,” seemed noteworthy.
Then there was special teams coordinator Jon Vassell, who needed no hesitation to voice whether he wanted Maher to be the Cowboys’ starting kicker in a playoff game over their teams on Sunday at San Francisco 49ers.
“Hell, yeah,” said Terminator. “If you ask me, sure.”
So what will the cowboys do? And how do they explain the disastrous performance that attacked the third best player in the NFL (137 points total) in the 2022 season?
A strange night of kicking
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Cowboys also believe that every extra effort is worth a story.
The coaches agreed that Maher’s concerns Monday night were psychological and situational, rather than physical. The 33-year-old was not injured. There was no wind and no fear of inclement weather Monday night in Tampa. And the kick action—suspension, snap—was clean.
On his first step, Maher “didn’t commit to a full swing,” Fasel said. “Almost like a slow seesaw.” The ball has sailed to the right so far and has not landed in the net behind the post but into the stands. The Cowboys then had to continue the process of kicking with the second of the three designated kick balls, or “K”, a ball for which Maher had far fewer reps and experience.
To further detract from the second extra point attempt, the officials apparently flagged the Cowboys’ snapping action before their second kick, saying they could not use a blade of white-coated grass from the line drawn on the outfield to mark the ball. Whether that contributed to a second attempt at the wide right extra point is up for debate, but what is not is that Maher apparently caught the ball with his toe rather than executing a clean shot.
The stands swallowed that ball up as well, leaving the Cowboys to settle for the last, least worn out ball.
“We’ve come to the third and final ‘K’ ball that hasn’t been tampered with,” said Vassal, explaining the nuances. “You only have a certain amount of time with the ‘K’ balls so you spend most of the time [pregame] In the first, all that remains in the second and hope to get [kick] in the third. The first two are lost in the stands. Down to our last ‘K’ ball and if we lose that ball we’ll need to use a pirate. “
Maher corrected on his third attempt. This time, he left.
And by the fourth foul, chaos was in Maher’s head. Yes, Fasel said, Maher had “ellipses”—a psychological phenomenon in sports that the Mayo Clinic identifies when athletes become “so restless and self-centered-thinking to the point of distraction-that their ability to execute a skill…is hearing impaired.”
Maher finally called on his fifth attempt.
Tuesday morning in a meeting with Fassel, the kicker remained “stunned”.
“A perfect storm for kicking bad,” said Fasel. “I believe in a hot hand and I believe in points. Not at all. You’ll sometimes wonder how you got to the yips, and sometimes you’ll wonder how you got back to the hot hand. I think it’s [to] Keep advancing to the goal line and shooting.”
Fasil explains to Maher “the best medicine”
As of Tuesday night, the Cowboys have not planned to drastically change Maher’s practice week or game day process, a person familiar with the plan confirmed to Yahoo Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly disclose details of the team’s game plan.
Maher was working at team headquarters on Tuesday, facing and reviewing frustrating tape, preparing for his regular Thursday and situational kicks on Friday. A directional switch would have been the most likely change if any were to come (turning right instead of left, for example) but a clean week of practice could kill even that tilt.
The next full Cowboys practice, and thus the exact kicking time, has been scheduled for Thursday.
Fasel hailed Maher’s run as the best and most famous off-ball routine he worked with in 18 seasons coaching NFL special teams with legs including Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zurlin‘s. Each, at some point, has earned points. After that, each of them kept kicking and overtaking him.
“This week is going to give him confidence, just getting back out there,” Fasel said. “He probably had too bad a mental injury to be able to sweat and kick again. There’s no medicine like getting back on the practice field. I’m hopeful. A good professional guy who really cares… leads me to optimism about a good recovery. We all want him.”
“To be honest with you, as a coach, I kind of live for these moments — to play more of a psychologist than a coach, to go back into the boardrooms and find a way to help these guys recover.”
Maher won’t have much time to focus. The Cowboys travel to San Francisco on Saturday after a short training week, eager to upset the 49ers and advance to the conference championship game for the first time in 27 years.
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara will present another challenge on grass as opposed to the Cowboys’ home turf. Gulf winds are likely to test Maher’s strength.
The 49ers are a 3.5-point favorite per BetMGM. The Cowboys are going to need every point they can get. The members of the organization hope that Maher will achieve.
“At the end of the day, we all have work to do,” McCarthy said. “He knows he has to get the ball up the posts. He’s been very productive and consistent for us.
“In this business, and especially this game, you learn from your experiences when it doesn’t go the way you want it to versus its success. So just like the whole football team [in a Week 18 loss]We came out of Washington and got punched in the jaw and I think we responded clearly.
“I think he definitely has that in him.”
Follow Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports on Twitter @tweet