Until Blair Walsh missed way wide left in a January playoff game against Seattle, leading to more missed kicks, a loss of confidence and ultimately a kicking tryout Tuesday, the Vikings had been enjoying an impressive run of very little kicking drama.
Ryan Longwell was as steady as they come from 2006-11, and Walsh — in spite of a couple hiccups — was often a sure thing from 2012-2015 (until, you know, the 27-yarder).
It hasn’t always been this way. The Vikings kicking game in the preceding years was a mess, often leading to them bouncing from journeyman to journeyman.
2005? Paul Edinger kicked the whole season but made just 3 of 8 field goals between 30 and 39 yards and missed nine of them in all.
2004? Morten Andersen was asked to rescue the Vikings, and he was decent (18 of 22, though just 9 of 13 beyond 30 yards, with no attempts beyond 50 yards). He was 44 years old, so he probably wasn’t a long-term solution.
2003? Aaron Elling went 18 for 25 (72 percent).
2002? Doug Brien missed two extra points (from the old 20-yard distance, remember) and a field goal in an early-season loss to the Bills. The Vikings then brought back Gary Anderson, age 43. He went 18 for 23, but just 3 for 8 between 40 and 49 yards.
All of that is a polite way of saying: as bad as Walsh has been, be careful what you wish for — advice it would appear the Vikings are heeding.
That said, other teams have switched kickers in midstream with some success in recent years.
The Giants did it this year after cutting Josh Brown. Robbie Gould — a Vikings fan favorite as a replacement for Walsh — was scooped up by New York. He’s made his only field goal try and all six extra points in two Giants victories since joining them.
In 2015, Tampa Ba cut Kyle Brindza after he missed six field goals and two extra points in 20 combined attempts and brought in Connor Barth — who missed just six of his 54 combined field goal (28) and extra point (26) attempts the rest of the way. The Steelers cut Josh Scobee after he missed five early kicks and brought in Chris Boswell — who went a combined 55 of 59 on field goals and extra points the rest of the season.
Two years ago, it took the Lions three tries — going through disastrous stretches with Nate Freese and then Alex Henery before Matt Prater, whose big leg contributed to Detroit’s win Sunday over the Vikings, saved them.
Maybe the Vikings could find a half-year solution with a hot kicker if they replaced Walsh. Maybe they’d get lucky and find a viable long-term replacement. Or maybe they’d hop on the carousel they were on before Longwell — a collective as inconsistent as Walsh at his worst.