Cody Parkey’s 43-yard miss in the final seconds of the Chicago Bears’ NFC wild card game last postseason will be haunting fans for decades.
Judging from one story published by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday, it could haunt the Bears coaching staff even more.
Kickers aren’t happy with how the Bears handled this offseason
The SI report painted a picture of a coaching staff almost unhinged in its search for its next kicker, to the point of bringing nine kickers into rookie minicamp (the NFL norm is usually four) and putting them through an emotional, statistical wringer.
Multiple kickers, some quoted anonymously, expressed frustration and bewilderment with how Bears coach Matt Nagy and his special teams staff conducted the camp battle. In addition to the large number of kickers in camp, the kickers complained of the staff’s obsession with Parkey’s miss, cryptic messages from data collected by Trackman (a technology seen in golf and baseball) to evaluate kicks and an overall negative vibe in the room.
One kicker said the team was beating a dead horse by repeatedly forcing kickers to attempt 43-yard kicks with the entire team, front office and media watching in silence. Another said the feel in the special teams room “did not seem positive whatsoever,” and multiple others simply described the process as “weird.”
There was a suggestion the team should fire famed kicking consultant Jamie Kohl, who some complained of bias toward past pupils, to move forward. There was a complaint of the team doing too much to “make the media happy.” Several complained about the team not explaining what stats it was using for evaluation and how to improve them.
Long-time NFL special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff was quoted as saying the act of bringing in nine kickers for a competition is “ridiculous” and “a sham.”
Obviously, this is all coming from a group of players rejected by the Bears, so they’re not unbiased. Still, it seems questionable to make such a fuss over one single position group in response to a single missed kick that was not only tipped, but came at the end of a rough offensive game for the entire team. Kickers make for easy scapegoats, and it sounds like the Bears fully leaned into that.
And after grinding down such a large collection of undrafted rookies and journeymen, the team isn’t even guaranteed of ending up with a kicker better than Parkey, who is still on their cap sheet.
Matt Nagy defends Bears kicking search
Nagy defended his team’s approach in searching for a kicker, telling ESPN that the Bears wanted to leave no stone unturned:
"I understand — we brought in a lot of kickers that came in here," Nagy said Wednesday. "To me, I look at it as a positive, in the fact that we said we're going to turn over every stone to find whoever's out there. We felt like we, at that point in time, when we brought in a bunch of kickers, we're going to test them all out and see what they can do.
"And then, within that time frame, we also put in some situations with the Augusta silence early on to see how they could handle it. Is it exactly the perfect science? I don't know that, maybe not ... I just really like how we're going through this thing. [Bears general manager] Ryan [Pace] and I talk about no regrets, right?"
Funnily enough, all of those stones turned over ended up being for naught. The only kicker left on the Bears roster at this point was acquired in a trade following rookie minicamp.
Just one kicker left on Bears roster
Eddy Pineiro was acquired from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Pineiro is the only kicker remaining after the team's waiving of Elliott Fry, meaning the Florida grad is on track to take the NFL’s most scrutinized kicking position this season.
Unless, of course, something goes wrong. Judging by everything that has happened to the Bears since the 10-second mark of that wild card game, that’s not outside the realm of possibility,
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