Cowboys’ Kicking Woes are Chronic

First, a quick poll:

[polldaddy poll=3954240]

For the second time this season, kicker David Buehler did not miss a field goal that contributed to a Dallas loss. In three previous games, he missed field goals that would have: (a) tied the game against Washington; (b) tied the game against the Bears in the fourth quarter; and (c) given Dallas a fourth-quarter lead against the Titans.

(Of course, the Vikings tipped Buehler’s extra point that tied last Sunday’s game at 21, but the kick flipped through. We don’t need to count that one.)

More problematic is that Buehler’s real strength—his kickoff ability—has fallen sharply from last year.

Kicker David Buehler has only made six of nine field goals this year, but he didn't miss one on Sunday!

The kicking statistics are bothersome for the Cowboys. Ex-Dallas kicker Billy Cundiff, now in Baltimore, leads the league with 14 touchbacks. And Nick Folk, who the Cowboys released last year, has six touchbacks and ranks ninth. One of the reasons Buehler was drafted was because Folk could not get touchbacks.

That a Dallas kicker is struggling after a promising start should come as no surprise. This was the franchise that came up with the Kicking Karavan in the mid-1960s, where the team distributed scouts to 29 states to audition more than 1,300 kickers to replace Danny Villanueva, who was a disappointment. Even with such an effort, the Cowboys struggled to find a long-term answer, going from Mike Clark (1968-1971) to Toni Fritsch (part of 1971 to 1975) to Efren Herrera (1974, 1976-1977).

Dallas found a franchise kicker in Rafael Septien, who lasted for nine seasons from 1978 to 1986 after the team acquired him from Los Angeles. He never made more than 81.5% of his field-goal attempts in a season, but most considered him to be dependable, especially in the clutch.

Since that time, only Cundiff has lasted more than three seasons, and he only kicked part of his fourth season in 2005.

Beginning with Roger Ruzek in 1987, the pattern for Dallas kickers has been for them to have a promising season or two, followed by disappointment. Ruzek for instance, saw his field-goal percentage sink from 88% in 1987 to less than 50% in 1989. Here’s a look at all of them:

Roger Ruzek (1987-1989)

1987- 22/25 (88%)
1988- 12/22 (54.5%)
1989- 5/11 (45.5%)


Ken Willis (1990-1991)

1990- 18/25 (72%)
1991- 27/39 (69.2%)

Lin Elliott (1992-1993)

1992- 24/35 (68.6%)
1993- 2/4 (50%)

Chris Boniol (1994-1996)

1994- 22/29 (75.9%)
1995- 27/28 (96.4%)
1996- 32/36 (88.9%)

Richie Cunningham (1997-1999)

1997- 34/37 (88.9%)
1998- 29/35 (82.9%)
1999- 12/22 (54.5%)

Tim Seder (2000-2001)

2000- 25/33 (75.8%)
2001- 11/17 (64.7%)

Billy Cundiff (2002-2005)

2002- 12/19 (63.2%)
2003- 23/29 (79.3%)
2004- 20/26 (76.9%)
2005- 5/8 (62.5%)

Nick Folk (2007-2009)

2007- 26/31 (83.9%)
2008- 20/22 (90.9%)
2009- 18/28 (64.3%)

Of these kickers, the best was probably Chris Boniol, but Dallas lost him to Philadelphia via free agency. Somehow, that seems fitting.

The Cowboys have, of course, signed free agent veterans to step in and help in the past, so the list of kickers also includes the likes of Eddie Murray and Mike Vanderjagt. However, for the most part, Dallas has tried and tried again to find a young kicker who can end this pattern.

Trouble is, Buehler is giving little indication that he will stop this trend.