Rick Spielman gambled and lost.
In terms of Sunday’s outcome, a tie felt like a loss, and the Vikings general manager had no choice but to admit he screwed up his kicker situation and had to fix it before more damage was done.
Spielman released rookie kicker Daniel Carlson on Monday after two games and one of the worst meltdowns imaginable in a 29-29 tie at Green Bay.
Carlson missed three field-goals attempts, including a potential game-winner from 35 yards as time expired in overtime. Carlson admitted that his confidence was shaken after his first two misses, and he might as well have packed his bags and headed home at that point.
His career with the Vikings was done.
Actually, this outcome was foreshadowed in the preseason when coach Mike Zimmer became so exasperated with Carlson after a missed field-goal attempt against Seattle that he opted for a two-point conversion following a touchdown.
Veteran Dan Bailey is expected to sign once he passes a physical.
Chalk this up as a notable draft bust by Spielman and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who presumably gave his recommendation before the organization drafted Carlson in the fifth round, the highest pick used on a kicker in team history.
The Vikings grew tired of Kai Forbath’s penchant for missing extra points so they rolled the dice on Carlson, and it backfired spectacularly. The team pretended to hold a kicker competition in training camp but that was merely a ruse. As long as Carlson showed up with two legs, he had the job.
Spielman and coaches raved about Carlson’s strong leg, but they couldn’t account for his inability to handle pressure or failure.
The quick hook was Spielman’s only recourse because the Vikings are expected to contend for a championship, and the NFC is too formidable to not maximize every opportunity. The Vikings squandered a big one on the road against a division opponent.
Carlson’s teammates supported him publicly but that had to feel deflating watching a kicker choke away a winnable game at Green Bay with so much at stake. The team couldn’t move forward with a skittish rookie potentially ruining their season. Zimmer’s tone Monday showed how little patience he has in that area.
That Spielman opted to go with a rookie kicker on a team loaded with established stars seemed risky from the start. He couldn’t let Carlson’s draft status serve as his guiding force in deciding whether to cut bait after two games. Spielman had to admit he made a mistake, fix it and move on.
Spielman also seemed to send a message in a separate move. It certainly didn’t seem like a coincidence that the team signed veteran receiver Aldrick Robinson one day after Laquon Treadwell had a nightmare outing.
Three seasons into his career and the former first-round pick still can’t be trusted. The team should put Treadwell on notice after his error-filled performance included an egregious drop that resulted in an interception late in regulation.
Treadwell was targeted a career-high six times and caught his first career touchdown pass. But he also dropped three passes and appeared to run the wrong route on another. So four of his six targets went haywire because of a lack of focus, or something.
Cutting Treadwell would be popular with fans, but the Vikings should try a different tactic in case that position encounters injuries at some point.
The team should demote Treadwell on the depth chart. Make him inactive on game day or give others playing time at the No. 3 receiver spot. Maybe that’s Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra or the new guy, Robinson.
It’s no secret that first-round picks are granted more leeway in the cutthroat nature of NFL business because of ego and investment, but the Vikings can’t reward Treadwell with blind faith if this is the result after him being largely invisible his first two seasons.
Sunday’s tie was a missed opportunity. The Vikings reacted accordingly a day later.