The Bears don’t currently have an NFL kicker. Not really.
Sure, they kept Chris Blewitt and Elliot Fry from this past weekend’s #KickerFest19. Sure, they also traded a CONDITIONAL 7th-round pick from sometime in the next decade to acquire Eddy Pineiro from the Oakland Raiders. But even if these three unproven men wow the organization throughout OTAs and the summer, and even if they all stick on the roster come the preseason and are perfect through fake-game action, the Bears will not know if they have an NFL kicker until Thursday night, September 5th. Because that’s when the Green Bay Packers come to town. That’s when the result gets stapled to the GM and head coach. And that’s when the kicks actually matter.
Maybe one of these three ends up “the guy” come opening night. Or maybe Ryan Pace is still laying in the weeds, waiting out a fragile situation in San Francisco. No, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to believe Robbie Gould will be the one kicking against the Packers on that Thursday night in September. As one league source texted me, “Gould doesn’t want to be there anymore and the entire sport knows where he wants to be.” He wants to be home, with his family, in Chicago. But will Niners GM John Lynch allow a kicker to hold him hostage? Will he have a choice if Gould, you know, doesn’t show up for work?
The Bears are a championship contender. They have the league’s most talented defense and an offense that should be drastically improved with another year of experience in this NFL-proven system. But if they enter the 2019 campaign with a liability at the kicker position it will be impossible to pick them to win at all. Because at some point – maybe with a division, or home field, or another playoff game at stake – they’ll need a kick in a big spot.
On May 8th, the Bears can’t possibly believe they can make that kick. But it’s only May 8th.
For every NFL franchise, each offseason begins with self-evaluation. That process is driven by one prevailing question: where can we improve our roster? The Bears have a very good roster; one of the better in the league. But their deficiencies in 2018, one in particular, kept them from advancing in the playoffs. They have a serious, specific need. And that need must be addressed in the coming months.
Cody Parkey will be handed a pink slip as soon as it makes the most financial sense, leaving the Bears looking for a starter at the pivotal kicker position. (If you don’t think kicker is pivotal you missed this postseason.) Three points of note:
(1) Redford Jones was chum for the sharks. This is not to say the Tulsa product can’t kick his way onto the 2019 roster but that is not the current expectation inside the Halls of Halas. The 24 year-old product of Steve and Kristi Jones (Wikipedia is so funny) has one significant advantage: for most of January, all of February and half of March he’s going to be the only kicker on the Bears roster with a chance to play football for the team in September.
Helpful advice for Jones: go to Soldier Field and kick. Even if you have to steal the key from someone on the custodial staff.
(2) Free agents cost money and good free agents cost almost exclusively too much money. If the Bears want to bid for Stephen Gostkowski, they’ll end up making the same mistake every team makes when they acquire a Belichick castoff. The answer in free agency – IF there is an answer in free agency – is Robbie Gould. From a Patrick Finley piece in the Sun-Times:
“Obviously I still have an affinity for the city of Chicago,” Gould said while helping other Payton Award nominees build a playground at Warren Boys and Girls Club. “I really enjoy playing for San Francisco. They have exclusive rights to talk to me until free agency opens up. I think there’s a mutual understanding of wanting to go back there, but I’ve been through free agency before and you never know what’s going to happen.
“They’ve said they want to bring me back, obviously. At some point we have to negotiate a contract. . . . When the time’s right, they’ll do that and we’ll figure it out. If not, we’ll figure it out.”
If Gould does ends up as a free agent, he would find the Bears intriguing. His family still lives here and will continue to do so after he retires. If he signs a long-term contract, though, he plans on taking his family with him to that city.
“I’d like to be next to my family,” he said. “Those are things that will play a big part in free agency, for sure, if I ended up getting there.”
Clearly, Gould wants to return. But he can’t say that, of course. If the Niners don’t franchise him and free agency opens, the Bears have no choice. They must sign him. Because even if he misses every single kick he attempts in 2019, it’s a decision that will never be second-guessed.
It’s Masters Sunday. And I really don’t care about the Chicago Bears on Masters Sunday. So here’s some videos of former Bears players playing golf.
Jim McMahon. Barefoot.
The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.
I grew up on Bears vs. Packers.
As most DBB readers already know, I grew up in Wisconsin, right near the Minnesota border, and had to sit on the sidelines while Packers and Vikings fans battled it out. But the two times a year the Bears played the Packers were the best two weeks of the season. They were my Super Bowl simply because I knew the Bears had no shot of getting to the actual Super Bowl.
I’ll admit there were times when I cried after the Bears lost to the Packers. One of the happiest days of my life was the Walter Payton game. The 2010 NFC Championship was one of the worst. The Bears beating the Packers meant everything to me.
Last Thursday’s game meant nothing. I didn’t have any hope. Something wasn’t right in my Bearsmosphere and I’m damn glad they fixed it.
The word of the day is perspective.
I like to think I’m as passionate a Bears fan as there is. I typically get nervous about the Sunday games on Friday and, when the Bears have a performance like they did against Houston, it ticks me off until the next Wednesday. But none of my common symptoms were there this week.
The reason is simple. The day after the Bears played their opener, my wife was scheduled to be induced and we welcomed the world’s newest Bears fan on Tuesday.
The Bears didn’t mean much to me last week and they don’t this week and I suppose that’s how it should be. But what happened last week shouldn’t mean much to you either. Just like the preseason, there’s a ton of instant reaction. But historically it hasn’t proven to be an indication of things to come.
Surely everyone remembers last season when the Rams beat the Seahawks and the 49ers thumped the Vikings? There were three playoff teams that lost to non-playoff teams last year and it seems to happen every year. Most of the teams in the league are still figuring out who they are the first three weeks of the season.
The Texans seem better than I thought (mostly because of Will Fuller) and the Bears have work to do. We knew the Bears wouldn’t be a finished product coming in. But what happened in Week 1 shouldn’t change your opinion of what kind of team the Bears have this year.
While I’m a big believer in the importance of winning in the trenches, the biggest area in which the Bears were out-classed Sunday was on the sidelines. John Fox single-handily cost the Bears a minimum of 11 points by not challenging two easy plays.
How can anyone be sure the Bears were right on both Robbie Gould and Josh Sitton?
Both players were released for the exact same reasons:
The Bears got an up-close look at it with Gould. S0 did the Packers with Sitton.
With Gould, the Bears must think his leg is either dead or going to die before long. There is some evidence to back that up since 9 of his 12 misses over the last three seasons have come after November 1st. Maybe his leg has gotten tired or maybe he isn’t able to cut through the cold wind as well.
But, if they were even considering cutting him, why didn’t they bring competition in? That lack of competition tell us this can’t be based on last season’s performance. Gould made nearly 85 percent of his kicks last year with 9 attempts coming from at least 50 yards away. By comparison, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker was under 83 percent with 10 attempts from 50 yards away. Gould missed the game-winner against San Francisco. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a gimme in a playoff game. Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point that could’ve put the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
It happens. Teams in cold-weather cities need good kickers and they recognize the value in keeping them.