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Vikings look to fix kicking woes by hiring consultant known for postseason kicking woes

After six straight years of watching his kickers struggle, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has finally decided to bring in some help

Zimmer announced this week that the team has decided to hire a kicking consultant in hopes of fixing the never-ending problem that is the Vikings’ kicking game. Since Zimmer took the Vikings’ coaching job in 2014, he’s worked his way through four kickers and watched each of them miss multiple clutch kicks. 

The list of kickers that Zimmer has gone through includes Blair Walsh, who was eventually replaced by Kai Forbath, who was eventually replaced by 2018 draft pick Daniel Carlson, who was then replaced by Dan Bailey after just two weeks. 

Bailey might not have a long leash heading into 2019, and that’s because he ended the 2018 season with a field goal conversion rate of just 75 percent, which was the second worst in the NFL

To help Bailey improve his game, Zimmer and the Vikings have brought in former Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding.  

“We talked to him, brought him in for a couple days. I asked him what he thinks is important with kickers,” Zimmer said, via the team’s official website. “I feel like it’s important that these specialists have someone who has been there and done that and can kind of watch the minute, little things that go on with the kicking game, whether it be the hold or the placement of the ball or when the snap is coming, just all these different things. I think it will be a good resource.”

On one hand, the hiring of Kaeding makes plenty of sense. As a former NFL kicker who currently stands as the ninth-most accurate kicker in NFL history, Kaeding has a deep knowledge of the position and should be able to help Bailey. On the other hand, Vikings kickers have been known to struggle in key situations, and that’s something Kaeding might not be able to help with. 

During his nine-year NFL career, Kaeding struggled in the postseason, hitting just 53.3 percent of his field goals (8 of 15), which was well below his career regular season percentage of 86.2. In the divisional round of the playoffs following the 2009 season, Kaeding went 0 for 3 in a game against the Jets that the Chargers would end up losing 17-14. 

In Minnesota, Kaeding won’t be at practice every day, but he will be around to help Bailey when he needs it.  

“He’s coming a couple days a week and gets the chance to watch these guys. But he’s sending video back and communicating with email and video and things like that,” Zimmer said. “You have to have someone that really wants to do it, too. He was very adamant he wanted to do this.”

Part of the reason Zimmer decided to hire a kicking consultant is because the Cowboys had one during his time on their staff as defensive coordinator (2000-06)

“When I was in Dallas, we had a guy that did it, but he was also breaking down tape and things like that,” Zimmer later added. “It’s not that involved right now. You never know where it ends up leading to.”

Although the Vikings will have to wait to see what happens in the regular season to determine whether or not the hiring was a success, Zimmer seems happy with the way things are going right now. 

“I actually talked to Dan Bailey today and asked how it was going with Nate,” Zimmer said. “It’s still early in the process, but he felt like it was good to have somebody there to talk about certain things with and look at the real specific part of that position. Then he made all the field goals today, so that was good.”

Zimmer will be hoping that Kaeding can help end the team’s kicking woes, which date back several years. One of the most notable misses in team history even came under Zimmer’s watch. During the wild-card round following the 2015 season, Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with just seconds remaining that would have given the Vikings a win over Seattle. 

The Vikings also got an especially ugly game from Carlson last season. After rolling with the rookie, Zimmer watched in horror as the fifth-round pick went 0 for 3 during a Week 2 tie against the Packers, which was an especially painful outcome because the Vikings ended up missing the playoffs by a half-game. 

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