Interview Dan Bailey long enough and one question comes to mind as he works every overexaggerated angle back to the middle with consistency and the casual flatline look of a man who’s just split the uprights.
“So,” you say to him, “you really are just a boring kicker, eh?”
“Yeah,” he says. “Exactly.”
That’s OK. Boring is good. Boring is what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer asks the football gods for as reparations for Blair Walsh and Daniel Carlson. Boring is making all your kicks at MetLife Stadium, scoring 14 points in an 18-point win and claiming NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Boring is making 12 straight kicks — six of them field goals — and causing a scarred fan base not to think the worst every time you trot onto the field.
Knock on wood?
Actually, Bailey isn’t a knock-on-wood kind of guy. He’s more of a scientific, work-the-process kind of guy who knows if the snap-hold-kick operation is clicking, the ball will find its way between the pipes. And the nine-year pro has the sixth-best career field goal percentage (86.64) in NFL history to prove it.
Just don’t expect him to savor his first player of the week award since winning his third with the Cowboys four years ago.
“I think I’ve been accused of being a little hard on myself in the past, whether it’s coaches, friends or family,” Bailey said. “I guess until they all go through, I’ll never be fully satisfied with the results. Plus, we still have 12 weeks left. Plenty of football left.”
The Vikings first enjoyed the benefits of that even-keeled demeanor at Philadelphia in Week 5 a year ago. Sunday, the two teams meet again in a Week 6 game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In that 23-21 win a year ago, the Vikings took the opening kickoff and drove 65 yards to the Eagles’ 10-yard line. Bailey missed a 28-yard field goal, his first miss in four tries over three games as a Viking.
“The operation could have been a lot better,” Bailey said. “But I still need to make the kick.”
What Bailey won’t say is Kevin McDermott, the long snapper at the time, snapped the ball inside. What he also won’t say is Matt Wile, the holder at the time, missed his spot setting the ball down.
Three possessions later, Bailey missed from 45 yards, wide right.
“That one, if I had to hit 10 of those kicks, I’d do the same thing,” Bailey said. “It was into a right-to-left wind and it just kind of leaked right on me. I thought for sure the wind was going to bring it back.”
Bailey then made field goals of 37 and 22 yards. Then, with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left, the Vikings needed Bailey to make a 52-yarder for a two-score lead in a game in which the defense was struggling to contain Carson Wentz.
Bailey made the kick. And Wentz led a touchdown drive that didn’t matter.
“I get the question all the time, ‘How do you handle the pressure or the situations?’” Bailey said. “But there’s nothing really too complicated about it. You trust the operation and you don’t get too high when you make one or too low when you miss one. That Eagles game is a classic example.”
Bailey also said he trusted the Vikings to eventualy get the right pieces in place.
They started camp with two long snappers when it was obvious rookie Austin Cutting wasn’t getting cut. They had Chad Beebe take his first-ever crack at holding when it was obvious Wile was a lost cause. They traded a fifth-round draft pick to Baltimore for Kaare Vedvik, a punter-kicker-holder candidate whom they cut a couple weeks later. Then the Browns bailed them out by making 10-year veteran punter-holder Britton Colquitt available.
Bailey gives a lot of credit to Colquitt’s veteran savvy and calming “happy-go-lucky” personality for stabilizing the operation mechanically and emotionally.
“I don’t know that I was ever frustrated in camp because I understand the personnel process,” said Bailey, who has made seven of eight field goals (87.5) after tying a career-low 75.0 percent in 2018. “My rookie year, I want to say we had six or seven kickers in camp at one point. So, I’ve seen everything. You get used to it.”
Boring? Yes. But the Vikings — though maybe knocking on wood — aren’t complaining.