Kicking It Around

Wasn't the release of 3-year-veteran, place kicker, Billy Cundiff, the proverbial two ships passing in the night?

The Richter scale needle didn't budge, and apparently, neither has the Cowboys' Nation. Ho hum. No biggie. Another "matter-of-fact" dismissal. Let's get right down to it. He's only a kicker, right? Unless your name is Vinatieri, Vanderjagt, Akers, Blanda or Stenerud, hardly an eyebrow is raised. Bar none, the most taken-for-granted and under appreciated position on the 53-man NFL roster.

The brunt of all jokes.

Just say the word, "kicker," and the snickers begin.

Blamed for everything (insert Scott Norwood here). Credited for nothing. Awkward tacklers. Recipients of athletic tape to locker room benches humor. A dime a dozen.

Not so fast.

Based on the early reviews and observations, Billy Cundiff is the most significant roster casualty to date, and quite possibly could be the biggest void for the remainder of the year. This based on the template in place for how the Cowboys plan to win NFL contests in 2005. Defense-dominated, field position, mistake-free football. A plan that screams close contests and the need for upright security in the closing seconds. Granted, a style more "On Golden Pond" than "Bad Boys II," but potentially effective none-the-less. With the probability of Cowboys-administered blowouts highly unlikely, don't they need as much reliability and dependability as possible?

Jose Cortez may be the answer, but the masses, and their actions, out at Valley Ranch have the watchful eye thinking otherwise. As chronicled in the Parcells' press conference of 9/2/05, a slate of at least four place kickers were in transit to Valley Ranch for Labor Day weekend auditions. Three of which Parcells needed a pronunciation coach to address, but PR Exec Rich Dalrymple couldn't deliver the chip shot. Must have been a bad hold.

Cortez the kick-off specialist? Can do. His showing in the preseason denotes exactly why Minnesota had him inked to provide the same services last year. He certainly can keep an opponent penned in. The place kicker? This is where Parcells scrambles for the doses of Tylenol PM just to put the white locks to sleep at night.

Think a roster spot doesn't carry value? Think again. Parcells couldn't afford to keep a vacant seat for 4-6 weeks in hopes the Cundiff appendage would sufficiently heal. Is Billy's number still in speed dial? Bank it. No, he may not have equaled or surpassed the Parcells-coveted 80% efficiency rating, but he wasn't far off. In the course of the season, his differential could have been a mere one or two misses with a pull left or a push right. Not a glaring deficiency by any account.

Too much hoopla over a kicker? The Cowboys are not good, or explosive, enough to throttle opponents, and lopsidedness is not Parcells' football. Methodically advance the pigskin, eat clock, and convert scoring opportunities. How old is Matt Bahr? Is he drawing AARP benefits as of this writing? Don't shortchange the issue. This is a Rolaids epidemic for the head coach.

Consider this. Adam Vinatieri accounted for 31% of total point production in New England last year, John Carney amassed 26% in San Diego, Mike Vanderjagt registered 24% in Indy, and Lawrence Tynes responded with 23% for Kansas City. These were the four highest-scoring clubs in 2004, and their kickers were directly responsible for 26% of the overall points scored by each franchise. Also understand this. The further we go down the list in total points scored, the higher the percentage of kicker contribution to the bottom line.

Is a quarter of total point production significant? Does the 2005 season start in less than a week? Are the Cowboys standing with jocks on and playing pants down?

As they infrequently (thank goodness) and anxiously exclaim in the space travel world, "Houston (insert Dallas), we have a problem." Is it any revelation the revolving door at the Valley Ranch complex is in need of oil? Anyone showing plausible credentials and two different shoes are gaining access these days. No waiting. At the base, Lady Liberty's "The New Colossus" expounds, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming (in this case, teaming) shore.

Its most appropriate Labor Day is on the doorstep. Wanted: Laborer worth at least 25% of total point production sought. No need for two-week notice. Must start immediately.

Every NFL franchise wants to cement a familiar face and arm behind center consistently for 10+ years, and it can be argued the same applies when it comes to face and foot behind holder. If starting quarterbacks are rotated annually (again, insert Cowboys here) and kickers follow suit, it's a safe bet the team in question is wallowing in mediocrity. If they're lucky.

Billy Cundiff will be missed: left, right and literally. If the pronouncement of "man overboard" is heard resonating throughout Texas Stadium, let it be known the two ships passing in the night actually collided. Anyone know a good Witch Doctor?

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