The kick had barely left Blair Walsh’s right foot before I was up off the couch and on my way out the front door. This wasn’t my first Vikings, playoff game, potential game-winning kick rodeo. I already did that dance in 1998.
And as I walked outside in that rainy, cold January New England afternoon, looking to the sky for any semblance of an explantation as to what I had just witnessed, I remember feeling sympathy for Blair Walsh. Sure, he just choked away the Vikings chance at a playoff win. Sure, it was a kick short enough Randy Moss could’ve made left footed. Sure, it never even stood a chance of going through the uprights. In that moment, alone in the freezing rain on the park bench down the road from my apartment, I remember thinking how awesome the Blair Walsh Redemption Tour was going to be. Walsh was going to train harder than ever in the offseason and next year, that was going to be the year of Blair.
Well next season is here and so is Walsh but the notion of a redemption tour never made it off that park bench. I backed him after a rough season-opener in Tennessee. I could live with the miss at home (indoors might I add, the supposed cure-all to Walsh’s kicking schizophrenia) on Monday Night Football against the Giants. But after Sunday’s bed wetting it is time to call this thing Blair—the redemption tour isn’t happening, not in Minnesota at least. It is time for you to go.
I thought Blair handled that playoff shank against Seattle about is well as anyone could’ve expected. And to be fair, there was plenty of other blame to go around. Adrian Peterson’s fumble, the defense allowing Russell Wilson to kick the ball around the backfield before finding Doug Baldwin over the middle on the game-winning touchdown drive. But for Walsh to get testy after missing a game-tying extra point then having his next kick mercifully blocked (see tweet below) on Sunday, it is clear the Vikings need to make a move in another direction.
Not breaking any news here but Blair's blocked FG was actually a bad shank. pic.twitter.com/Oz889tHAbV
— Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) November 7, 2016
That’s why it came as no surprise today the Vikings announced they tried out two free agent kickers: Kai Forbath and Randy Bullock. Here is a little perspective on these two who aren’t really much better career-wise than Walsh.
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) November 7, 2016
Much like when Minnesota brought in Jake Long—you’re not banking on picking up a Pro Bowler off the street in early November, but if he can just be stable (and make the fucking easy ones!!!) that’s the type of improvement needed.
Walsh has a cap hit of $1.5 million this season and the Vikings books are pressed tight, making it a little tricky to get a new kicker into uniform this week. But the approximately $600k Minnesota does have left should be enough to get someone for eight games, one would think. And the Vikings have to do it. This isn’t mortgaging the future by trading for Joe Thomas or Sam Bradford. This is a fix-now issue or get your guts ripped out again in the playoffs—if they even make it to the postseason.
Minnesota has an evolving offense under new coordinator Pat Shurmur and a suddenly faltering defense, the margin for error is too thin to wait around for Walsh to get his head screwed back on straight. One of these guys, or someone—anyone really! needs to be kicking for the Vikings in Washington this week. Minnesota will have to eat the cap money but with over $30 million already on injured reserve, what’s another $1.5 million to get rid of kicker the team and fanbase (not that we matter) has lost all confidence in?
Pundits have been clamoring for the Vikings to score just 17-20 points a game and on Sunday they should’ve scored 20 had it not been for Walsh’s latest gaffes (and that whole Chad Greenway INT series that started at the 18-yard line). This team needs to milk every single point it can from its offense and without Walsh performing at an above-average level—it simply can’t do that.
(And this doesn’t even take into account his half-hearted tackle attempts against Philadelphia and against the Lions nor his complete cluster fucking of the game’s final kickoff from the 50-yard line.)
The sad part is Walsh has the talent to be an elite kicker if he can shake last year’s miss. And knowing the Vikings luck, he’ll get everything straightened out just in time to burn them again, only the next time he’ll be on the opposing sideline in colors other than purple and gold.