Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one and Super Bowl contenders don’t come around often, especially in Chicago. And the Bears are home because Ryan Pace ignored what everyone else knew was a fatal flaw and kept Cody Parkey at kicker.
The fact that the last second kick was officially changed to a block doesn’t really matter. That tells us Parkey didn’t get enough air on what should’ve been an easy kick. A 43-yard kick shouldn’t have to be a line drive and it shouldn’t be blocked at the line of scrimmage. That’s just as bad as missing it outright.
Blame Parkey all you want, but did anybody think he was going to make it? If you let a toddler poor milk into his cereal, he’s going to spill the milk. If a cat sees a pen on the counter, he’s going to knock that fucking pen OFF THE COUNTER. If a bad kicker has a shot at a big kick, he’s going to miss.
These are commonly known facts. Why didn’t Pace know them?
It was a topic of conversation heading into the game for good reason. Parkey was missing kicks — even extra points — at an alarming rate and there was no evidence that it was going to get better.
This was a problem. Everyone knew it was a problem. Matt Nagy didn’t even trust Parkey to try long field goals and avoided kicking extra points more than a few times when conventional wisdom suggested he should.
What makes it even more inexcusable is the makeup of this team.
The Bears established their identity as a defensive team in the second half. The kind of team that wins low-scoring games in the playoffs. The kind of team that needs to be able to take advantage of every scoring opportunity. The kind of team that absolutely, positively needs to have a good kicker.
But Pace ignored that.
There’s no point in discussing the players he could have brought in. The best kickers are often guys brought off the street, just as Robbie Gould was months after the Bears gave big money to Doug Brien.
It would be nice to say the Bears are going to be back next year, but there’s no way of knowing that. This really might have been their best and only shot at winning a Super Bowl. They were a legitimate 12-4 team and were almost completely healthy — something that almost never happens in the NFL.
Teams led by defense have shown a great variance in their success rate from year-to-year. Just look at the Minnesota Vikings. They were building a Super Bowl team that was destined to be back after Blair Walsh screwed them by missing a chip shot. We know how it has gone for them since that game. At least in Walsh’s case he was a good kicker and the Vikings had no reason to think he’d miss. The Bears had every reason to think Parkey would.
Even if the Bears are good next year, it won’t be the same. Club Dub will lose some of its luster, Matt Nagy some of his charm and Mitch Trubisky some of his boyish wonder.
This was easily the most fun Bears team to root for in my lifetime. I have no idea if they could’ve won the Super Bowl but I do know they should’ve won the home playoff game. I do know they’re better than the Eagles. I do know they needed a new kicker months ago.
Don’t think for one second that those thoughts haven’t hit the rest of the players in the locker room. They’ll support Parkey publicly, but in the coming days they’re all going to ask why Parkey wasn’t held accountable, knowing they would’ve been had they not done their jobs.
How can Pace look them in the eyes knowing he blatantly refused to do his job and neglected the rest of the team? He left them vulnerable to this. He left us vulnerable to this.
Pace built a great team, but he also allowed a magical season to end because he was either too arrogant or too ignorant to do what obviously needed to be done.
This one is on the GM and now it’s on him to build an even better roster and an even more bulletproof team. He owes it to the rest of the guys in that locker room.