The desire of football fans rarely matches the actions of their favorite football teams. Take the Minnesota Vikings, who just this week tried out multiple field goal kickers at Winter Park.
Fans continue to clamor for Blair Walsh’s replacement, but the Vikings opted to move forward with their struggling placekicker. This season, Walsh is 12-for-16 and 13-for-16 on extra points. To some, his most recent misses cost the Vikings a momentous football game, but Walsh remains the team’s one and only option.
Whether fans like it or not, the Vikings made a decision, one dictated by the realities of the salary cap and the roster’s current state. And with said business decision comes the uncertain reality of Walsh as a key contributor moving forward.
Knowing Walsh may serve as the key to a playoff berth (and beyond), I asked the Vikings Territory team to assess his prospects moving forward. Their answers, following the jump:
Is Blair Walsh a lost cause?
No. He no longer gets the benefit of the doubt, a great majority of Vikings fans are out of patience, but he isn’t a lost cause. The qualifications for a successful kicker is a pretty short list: kick far, kick straight, and do those two things consistently. We know Walsh can do the first thing. We know he can do the second one.
He has the leg and the skills, but consistency is a huge problem of late and you can certainly count me among those growing greatly tired of it. With that being said, I fully believe that bringing in a street free agent only provides false hope and that there is a legitimate chance that Walsh eventually gets his head straight and turns things around once and for all.
It’s been a rough stretch for Blair Walsh the last two seasons, but I wouldn’t say he’s a lost cause. He has a big time leg and I still remember when he made 12 consecutive 50+ yard field goals early in his career.
With 12 franchise and seven NFL records to his credit, I can understand why the Vikings are slow to pull the plug on Walsh. He certainly has the potential to be a great kicker and he flashed that with an outstanding rookie and sophomore season in 2012 and 2013.
Unfortunately for Walsh, it’s a “what have you done lately” league and he is now faced with the challenge of needing to be perfect on every kick. One bad kick could be his last as a Viking. That’s a lot of pressure for Walsh, but I think it’s not too late to turn things around and string a few great kicks.
Kicker career arcs are always fascinating. While essentially every kicking specialist not named Adam Vinatieri endures some level of a rut throughout the duration of a career, whether or not a given kicker is able to return to serviceable and to what extent he improves tends to work on a case-by-case basis.
Converting field goals and directional kicking are regarded as a short list of simple tasks by many fans, but each attempt requires a multitude of different elements to go according to plan for success. Minor technical issues, as was the case with Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby, are frequently remedied, but the concerns stemming from a mental aspect of the job yield results ranging from retirement to elite-caliber efficiency.
Blair Walsh is an interesting case, as his issues appear to stem from both technique and mental issues. However, his roller-coaster college career at Georgia (65.2%, 90.9%, 87%, 60%) suggests that he is a streaky kicker in the same way that baseball players can be streaky hitters — remember Torii Hunter?
Long story short, I don’t personally view Walsh as a lost cause — though his exchange with the media following Minnesota’s loss to Detroit did raise a red flag in my mind. I believe that he simply needs to convert an attempt of significant importance to re-up his confidence subscription, as sometimes the difference between above average and cut-worthy is just a genuine belief in one’s self.
Blair Walsh is certainly not a lost cause, at least not yet.
Yes, he did have a bad game on Sunday and yes, he flipped out on the media afterward for asking him about his only job on the team. But perhaps he was a little angry because he was one of the only reliable players on this team in last few weeks before Sunday.
Entering last week’s game against the Lions, Walsh had made six of his last seven field goal attempts and 11 of his last 12 extra point attempts. Maybe if someone had come to ask him about his success in the past few games, he would not have been so angry at everyone asking him what went wrong last Sunday.
He really is just the latest member of the Vikings to have an off day during their recent three-game losing skid.