Blair Walsh seems like a nice guy. And he generated plenty of sympathy and goodwill for the way he handled a season-killing 27-yard shank in the playoffs.
But the wide-left maneuver against the Seahawks in the wild-card round was unexpected. He had been reliable since arriving in 2012 as a sixth-round draft pick, earning a four-year, $13 million second contract that has him signed through 2019. He had made 87.2 percent of his field goal tries during the 2015 regular season, and he had missed only once in his career from 20-29 yards out.
This year, it’s different. Whatever fuse blew in Walsh’s brain in January remains unreplaced come September and October, with Walsh already missing five kicks in four games. On Monday night, Walsh went wide left (again), this time from 46 yards.
Unlike last year, the Vikings are now on notice. The question becomes whether they’ll trudge forward and hope things get better, or whether they’ll do something tangible, aimed at making the situation improve.
Here’s the risk: Cutting Walsh and signing a new kicker could result in the situation getting worse.
Here’s a solution: Robbie Gould continues to be available. With Walsh’s $1.15 million salary as a practical matter guaranteed (since he’s a vested veteran), why not sign Gould and keep Walsh on an interim basis? Walsh surely realizes that a team with a strategy flowing from managing close games can’t rely on a kicker who can’t consistently make kicks. So they carry two kickers for a short period of time, give Gould a trial run, and if he doesn’t miss 1.25 kicks per game, he gets the gig and Walsh gets the balance of his salary and the ability to land elsewhere.
Consider that one for a second. If Walsh were released right now, would another team jump at the chance to sign him? Or would another team say, “No thanks, he’s got the yips now”?
Chances are it’s the latter. Chances are the Vikings will see their chance to win a Super Bowl potentially evaporate with the same cruel suddenness that they disappeared a season ago, if they continue to rely on a kicker who suddenly can’t make kicks.