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Eatman: Wait, There Was a Kicking Competition? 

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FRISCO, Texas – Growing up in the 80’s, I always kind of lived by the iconic wrestler Ric Flair and his rule for determining your place.

To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.

Simple enough. You’re the champion, or the leader, or in this case, the jobholder, and if someone is going to take it, they have to come in and out-perform you, clearly.

I’m all for competition. I’m just not so sure this was one.

Dan Bailey lost his job on Saturday as the Cowboys decided to release him among the 36 players to get the roster down to 53. The Cowboys have every right to make whatever move they want. In this case, they’re going with Brett Maher, who has never made a kick in an NFL game.

Bailey, the second-most accurate in NFL history, might still have the top spot in that category had it not been for a groin injury that sidelined him for over a month. Bailey came back and obviously wasn’t the same, missing kicks he’s never done before, like two extra points and another inside of 30.

But like most people, I assumed he would regroup in the offseason, knock off the rust, and get his groove back. And I believe he had done that. Ok, so there were a few days in practice where he missed a couple of kicks, but after that, he was rock-solid.

I still don’t understand what happened between now and then for the Cowboys to decide to let him go.

I think we all would’ve liked to have a statement or press conference explaining why they cut their most productive kicker in team history. But that’s not really my big issue with this.

What I don’t understand is why Bailey didn’t get a chance to truly compete. The coaches can argue that by saying something like “they compete every day in practice.”

But in reality, they didn’t. Bailey took most of the kicks, and made all but five of them throughout the course of training camp in Oxnard. It was something like 37 out of 42 out there, and he was even better when the team returned to Frisco for the rest of camp.

However, he didn’t get a chance to really kick in the preseason games. Bailey made his only field goal attempt and another extra point. Other than that, Maher got all the other kicks, missing one in the first preseason game that would’ve given the Cowboys the victory in San Francisco. He made his other five kicks, including the 57-yard kick early in the Houston game last Thursday night.

Personally, I think it was that kick that got the Cowboys thinking to keep Maher.

But, why didn’t Bailey get that shot? Hasn’t he earned that opportunity by now? If Bailey’s confidence was something to worry about, then why not let him trot out there and drill a 57-yard kick. Because I know if he had made that, no one would be worried about him heading into the season.

Isn’t that what preseason games are for? The Cowboys made it really clear their intention wasn’t to win the football games – and they didn’t win any.

But it should’ve come down to evaluating players. What better way to see what you’ve got with Bailey then to have him attempt a long field goal, indoors, to raise the confidence level up in both him and the team?

I’m pretty sure that of the 36 players that got cut, a few of them are probably upset that they didn’t get a fair chance to compete. Maybe one of the younger receivers that got here late, or maybe a linebacker that just couldn’t get many reps behind this deep group of players.

But Bailey shouldn’t be one of those guys. He should’ve had all the reps he wanted and needed to get himself ready for the season.

Again, I have no problems with a guy getting beat out, even if it’s a surprise to us. But this doesn’t sound like it was ever a real competition.

And I’m just not one who thinks money had a big factor here. I mean, the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant to save $8 million and haven’t done anything with it. They signed Zack Martin to a deal that actually saved them money on the cap as well. Yet, they still haven’t done anything major with that cash.

So cutting Bailey, who has made more field goals than any player in franchise history, just to save around $3 million on the cap doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially considering how close these games are in NFL and they always come down to a field goal at the end of the half, the end of the game, and oftentimes, both.

I hate this for Dan Bailey because he’s one of the classiest guys that ever played for the Cowboys. I really never met one person, either one of his teammates, a media colleague of mine, or anyone else that works in the organization, that didn’t like Bailey. How could you not?

So for him, the person, you feel for him.

But there’s a ton of guys like that over the years that get cut or traded because they just weren’t good enough in the end.

However, that just doesn’t seem to be the case in this situation.

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