- The Chicago Bears 2018 season ended with the “double-doink” when their potential game-winning field goal hit off two posts and bounced short.
- The Bears fired kicker Cody Parkey and went on a wide-ranging search for a new kicker.
- The team went to extremes to recreate the pressure of Parkey’s kick for replacement candidates.
- After a bizarre search, the Bears are down to one kicker on their roster, for better or worse.
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The Chicago Bears crashed out of the NFL playoffs last year in heartbreaking fashion.
After the Eagles took a 16-15 lead with just a minute remaining in the NFC Wild Card game, Mitchell Trubisky led the team into field goal range with 10 seconds on the clock. The Bears set up for a 43-yard game-winner, only to see Cody Parkey’s kick hit the left upright, and then the crossbar, and bounce out.
“Oh my goodness,” said commentator Cris Collinsworth. “The Bears’ season is going to end on a double-doink.”
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 7, 2019
Heartbreaking playoff losses happen every year in the NFL. While many coaches might employ the mantra of having a “short memory,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy has opted to go in a different direction.
The “double-doink” led the Bears to begin a bizarre search for a new kicker.
Despite having just signed Parkey to a four-year deal with $US3.5 million in guaranteed money left on the contract, the Bears decided to cut him and start fresh from the position.
The Bears search for their next kicker began with a whopping nine potential players, consisting of six rookies and three veteran free agents competing for the job. During rookie minicamp, Nagy once called on eight of them to take kicks from what had been dubbed “the Parkey spot.”
The group went a combined 2-for-8.
Throughout the tryout process, some candidates for the Bears kicking job were suspicious or even uncomfortable with the team’s tactics. Kicking coach Jamie Kohl was used as a consultant during the search, and according to Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler, his grading brought confusion and distrust from the kickers.
Kohl used a point system that seemed arbitrary to some, and left them with hyper-specific notes on how to improve, such as “BALL TRAJECTORY IS A MAJOR CONCERN,” and “IMPROVE FG AND MPH OFF THE FOOT.”
Players also told Kahler that Kohl seemed to favour kickers who had already had an established relationship with Kohl.
“All of Jamie’s guys, they could have shanked the kick, and it was like, Oh, you have really good rotation, your foot is wrapping around the ball,” says one kicker who was cut after rookie camp. “I don’t think this situation will be solved or will be what the team needs to be until Jamie Kohl is gone. The way he very much tries to control a room, tries to be the alpha.”
Eventually, the field of potential kickers narrowed.
By the start of veteran minicamp, Nagy narrowed down his search to three kickers that would battle for the position – Chris Blewitt, Elliott Fry, and Eddy Pineiro. At one point, the trio was called back onto the main practice field to attempt the same field goal that foiled the Bears previous season. Again, all three players missed their kick, with one falling wide left, one wide right, and one, painfully, hitting off the upright.
But Nagy’s obsession with the double-doink went beyond his search for a new kicker. As running back Tarik Cohen toldAdam Schein, Nagy showed the final seconds of their Wild Card game during team meetings so players would “never forget that hurt.”
“Look, we’re not hiding from what happened last year,” Nagy told the new players, per Sports Illustrated. “We’re going to run up into the face of the problem and fight it.”
Whatever problems the Bears run into during 2019, Nagy wants to be sure that a missed 43-yard field goal is not one of them.
Two weeks from the start of the 2019 NFL season, there’s now one man left kicking.
Now entering the third week of the preseason, the Bears are down to just one kicker on the roster – Eddy Pineiro. But just because he is the last man standing on the team as constructed does not mean his job is secured.
”It doesn’t change anything,” Pineiro said of being the final kicker left on the roster after the team’s exhaustive search, per the Chicago Sun-Times. ”Still gotta make kicks. If I don’t make kicks, I’m gonna be gone, like everybody else.”
So far, Pineiro has done well enough to keep his spot through two preseason games. He missed a 48-yard attempt in the Bears preseason opener against the Panthers but bounced back with two made field goals against the Giants.
Roster cuts are coming, and jobs are on the line elsewhere across the league. Pineiro will need to stay sharp and accurate to convince the Bears not to bring in more outside competition for the job.
The Bears have high expectations for the 2019 NFL season. They have a dominant defence led by Khalil Mack, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with another year of experience under his belt and plenty of offensive firepower around him.
Nagy has made it clear that he does not want a missed kick to be the thing that foils the Bears season again. However, the team’s wide-ranging, sometimes bizarre search for a special teams savant still doesn’t seem to have solved their problem.
We won’t know if their search succeeded until the start of the Bears year, or possibly the end of it.
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