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Zulgad: Vikings make right move in cutting Carlson but it never should have come to this

By Judd Zulgad

Just how dreadful of day did Daniel Carlson have on Sunday at Lambeau Field?

That question was answered on Monday when the Vikings placed the rookie kicker on waivers and reportedly moved toward signing veteran Dan Bailey. On one hand, this seems like a no-brainer after Carlson’s hat trick of misses in a 29-29 tie with the Packers. This included two overtime miscues, with the last one coming from 35 yards as time expired.

But as obvious as it seemed that Carlson had to be gone, there remained this thought: “Will Rick really do it? Will he jettison his guy after only two games.”

Rick, of course, is Rick Spielman and while he has made some savvy moves during his time as the Vikings’ general manager, he also has struggled to admit to high-profile mistakes in the draft. Carlson wasn’t the only example of this on Sunday.

Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2016, saw enough playing time that he was able to drop three of the six Kirk Cousins passes thrown to him. Treadwell also caught a touchdown but the fact that it was the first one of his NFL career says all you need to know. Treadwell has shown nothing to prove that he deserves to be third on the Vikings’ depth chart at wide receiver behind the brilliant Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Yet, Treadwell has continued to get opportunities.

The decision to move up into the fifth round to take Carlson in last April’s draft was an immediate head-scratcher. Carlson was a young guy with a big leg who might someday be good, but the Vikings have been in this exact place before and, one would have thought, they had learned their lesson.

Blair Walsh was taken in the sixth round in 2012 after a rocky final season at an SEC school (Georgia). While he got off to a great start with the Vikings, he eventually became unplayable and was released. Carlson also had a rocky final season at an SEC school (Auburn) and it was clear he wasn’t going to get off to a smooth start when he missed a pair of 42-yard attempts in the Vikings’ third preseason game.

Veteran Kai Forbath had some issues with extra-point attempts during his time with the Vikings, but if Spielman wanted to make a move why didn’t he find another veteran kicker to sign? Why tempt fate? Especially with a team that has designs on being one of the best in the NFC and getting to its first Super Bowl since 1977.

The Carlson experiment looked destined to fail, but no one could have predicted failure would come this quickly. A second-quarter miss wide right from 48 yards. An overtime miss wide right from 49 yards. And then, as time expired, that 35-yard miss that also sailed wide right.

As Matthew Coller and I made the drove home from Green Bay on Sunday night, we debated if the Vikings would make this move. Spielman’s hubris has gotten in the way before and there was no denying that could have been the case again. Except one thing had struck me as odd in the aftermath of the tie.

Mike Zimmer, the Vikings’ coach, appears to have no time for kickers. He’s an old-school, defensive-first football guy and the fact that a skinny guy can come in and decide a game by kicking a ball probably makes him sick to his stomach. Zimmer made it very clear after Carlson’s struggles in the preseason game against Seattle that he wasn’t happy.

But on Sunday, Zimmer was measured in his answers and appeared almost at peace with what had just happened. Zimmer spoke in a small press conference room at Lambeau Field and when asked about a possible change with Carlson, he said he and Spielman hadn’t had time to talk yet. Spielman sat in the back of the room.

There was a feeling that even if the discussion had yet to take place, you knew exactly how it was going to go. Zimmer knew he wouldn’t have to continue to deal with this nonsense.

Zimmer and Spielman also had to know there was no way to sell Carlson’s presence to the locker room. This team just jettisoned an incredibly popular veteran in Brian Robison in the name of developing players and winning games and now they were going to try to tell them that Carlson had a place on the roster?

It’s one thing to keep a backup defensive linemen who can eventually contribute, but Carlson had just cost his team, one with an eye on making the Super Bowl, what would have been a huge comeback victory against their arch-rivals on the road. Kirk Cousins, the Vikings’ $84 million investment at quarterback, had just given you your money’s worth and yet a kicker had been your downfall.

That left the Vikings with a 1-0-1 record, instead of a 2-0 mark, with a victory over the Packers in Green Bay.

Spielman deserves credit for cutting Carlson, but he also deserves plenty of heat for the decision to go with him in the first place. Carlson never should have been at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Unfortunately, he was and as a result only time will tell if Spielman’s attempt to get cute with the kicker position will continue to haunt the 2018 Vikings.

The post Zulgad: Vikings make right move in cutting Carlson but it never should have come to this appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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