There are knee-jerk reactions and there are knee. Jerk. Reactions. When you spend a mid-round pick on a kicker, and you cut him after one bad game, that’s one serious knee-jerk reaction.
Daniel Carlson was drafted out of Auburn in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. At 167 overall he was the highest selected kicker in that draft. And in his second game, he missed three field goals, leading to a 29-29 tie with division rival Green Bay Packers. He was cut the next day.
From there Carlson didn’t immediately seek work with another team. In fact, he had an immediate offer from the Raiders, but turned it down.
“I just wanted to make sure when that came I was ready and would be ready for the rest of the season,” said Carlson.
It turned out to be a pretty good decision. When he was ready, the Raiders were still interested and he signed during the team’s bye week. Since then he has made 18 of 19 field goal attempts including three from 50 yards or more.
The week he returns to Minnesota where his career started, but played just one game as the Raiders get set to face the Vikings. There his former head coach Mike Zimmer will get to see the man he gave up on so quickly. A decision, you can imagine, he has second guessed a few times since.
“Honestly, I’m happy for him,” Zimmer said of Carlson. “I mean, do I have regrets? I like our kicker who we have now, but did I second guess it? Sure. He’s done great there, and I think he’s a very, very talented kid. I wish him well, just not this week. But no, I’m happy for him and in retrospect I guess, yeah, I’ve thought about it many times.”
How “many times”? I’m thinking Zimmer probably thought about it at least eight times since last season as that’s how many field goals Dan Bailey, who he signed to replace Carlson, has missed since then.
Among those misses by Bailey, two ironically, came against the Packers last week. That’s week two; even the same week Carlson missed his field goals. In that game, Bailey missed a field goal and an extra point and the Vikings lost 21-16. Coming fresh off that to welcoming the one that got away? Yeah, I’m thinking Zimmer has been kicking himself a bit.