Many in Cowboys Nation were dubious when the club opted to head into the regular season with Brett Maher as their kicker. Things, after all, had ended badly toward the end of the 2019 season, when Maher was released due to a sudden lack of accuracy.
But the Nebraska native, now 32, was brought back to Dallas for this summer’s training camp and won the job over undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay and ex-CFL star Lirim Hajrullahu. He’s been nothing sort of perfect after two games, sinking all three of his field goal attempts thus far, including the game-winner on Sunday versus Cincinnati.
“You do go out there expecting to make every kick,” Maher told media members after securing the Week 2 victory. “I feel like I’m in a good rhythm right now. Jake [McQuaide, long snapper] and Bryan [Anger, punter/holder] are absolutely money on the operation, gave me a great look at it. It’s just a really fun group to be a part of. That whole last sequence was awesome: Bryan pinning them deep with a punt, the defense getting a stop, getting a good punt return, and then getting in position and coming through. That was a very fun moment to be a part of.”
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2022
Maher’s 50-yard make is, incredibly, his shortest field goal of the young season so far; he hit one from 54 earlier in the Bengals game and was good from 51 in the season opener versus Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys’ special teams coordinator said his big-legged specialist would have been given the greenlight from even further away.
“We said 45-yard line. That was our goal,” said John Fassel on Monday. “There’s always a little bit of fudging if there’s [weather] conditions involved. But that big line is a nice target for the offense to think, ‘Let’s get past that big line of the 45,’ and then we feel good about a decision to potentially kick if it’s a walk-off. If there’s 10 or more seconds- just in case of a miss- then [the opponents] get a shot at it. So for end of half, end of game, walk-off kick, make that big line at the 45 our target for Brett, in our stadium. It could change in a road stadium that’s outdoors.”
Trying from the 45 would have made it a 63-yarder, equaling Maher’s career-best and the current franchise record. But long-distance bombs haven’t been Maher’s issue.
He’s responsible for four of the five longest field goals ever from a Cowboys kicker, and when the team cut him loose in 2019, Maher had booted two field goals from beyond 60 yards in back-to-back games about six weeks prior. But he had made only one of five from 40 to 49 yards out.
To be sure, Cowboys fans will let Maher hear it when he eventually pushes one wide or hooks a PAT. But for now, the new and improved Maher is making the most of his scoring chances… and is making the most of what is technically his third stint with the organization.
He was first on the Dallas practice squad briefly during the 2013 preseason as Dan Bailey rehabbed an injury. He was brought back in 2018 and outkicked Bailey for the starting job prior to that season.
But the fact that he’s back in the building again to prove himself to a new coaching staff doesn’t necessarily make this latest clutch kick any more rewarding, he says.
“Every opportunity is rewarding to be honest with you,” Maher confessed. “I’m happy to do my part with this group. The guys in the locker room are awesome. This whole game was a ton of fun to be a part of. This whole locker room is a ton of fun to be a part of. I’m embracing the ride and doing my part.”
And his coordinator is loving the comeback story, even if he’s just getting to know Maher for the first time.
“I was as happy as I could be. I’ve known Brett since he came out of college and kind of followed his career, like most guys, even if I haven’t coached them,” Fassel told reporters. “I wouldn’t say he’s exceeded my expectations because I thought he was always a really, really good kicker, but just his mental toughness and poise has been really cool to witness, because you don’t really get to know somebody like that until you’re coaching them. He’s a pro kicker, you know? Ups and downs and ups and downs.”
So far this time around with the Cowboys, it’s been all ups for Maher.