FRISCO, Texas –
The Cowboys are well aware that Brett Maher has never attempted a regular-season NFL kick in his career.
Ultimately, after much deliberation, they chose efficiency over inexperience.
In keeping Maher over veteran Dan Bailey, the second-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, head coach Jason Garrett and team brass decided they couldn't ignore this simple fact during a five-week preseason: Maher made kicks over and over again.
Signs of potential decline from Bailey – his back and groin injuries in recent years, plus his career-worst 75.0-percent field goal conversion rate in 2017 – also factored into Saturday's stunning decision to cut their former special teams captain.
When the Cowboys take the field for Sunday's opener at Carolina, Maher is their kicker.
"I think a combination of approach, very professional in his approach right from the start," Garrett said when asked about Maher's strengths. "Comes in, gets his work done, really good practice habits, kicked the ball really well, every day, virtually every time he kicked it all throughout training camp. Certainly he has an ability to help us in a lot of different ways. Very good kickoff guy, he punted throughout training camp, handled all that work really well.
"He's a very talented guy. He's got a strong leg. We saw that with the 57-yarder the other day in the (preseason) game (at Houston). So he has all the physical traits you'd want."
Maher has been on the Cowboys' radar since 2013, when they brought him to training camp as an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska. The former All-Big Ten kicker gained experience with a handful of Canadian Football League teams over the last four years.
The Cowboys signed him this offseason as a dual kicker/punter who could spell Bailey and Jones in camp. Somewhere along the way, his competition with Bailey got serious.
Now he's got the job.
"He did a really good job from Day One," Garrett said. "We recognize this decision and what we're doing, but when we put it all together we felt like this was the right thing for our team right now."