Maybe it was tipped. Maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter in the slightest.
Soiled it. Soiled it. Soiled it.
Rightfully, Parkey is gone. The miss, and a TODAY Show appearance later that week that enraged Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, secured his fate. The question then became who kicks at Soldier Field in 2019, and we quickly discovered that finding Parkey’s successor is no easy task – and one that the Bears’ brass seemingly either had no chance to get right or has botched from the start.
Here is a complete preview of the Bears’ specialists.
Punter: Pat O’Donnell
Long Snapper: Patrick Scales
Backup Long Snapper: John Wirtel
Let’s begin with the two specialists who are roster locks or very close to it: O’Donnell and Scales. Many, including myself, questioned Ryan Pace’s decision to bring back the fifth year punter out of Miami, for two reasons. First, Pace did not acquire him; he was a sixth-round pick of former Bears general manager Phil Emery. And second, O’Donnell was maddeningly inconsistent all year, and frankly he’s been that way his entire career.
This theme culminated in a poor punt late in the Bears’ playoff game against Philadelphia, giving the Eagles excellent field position for what become their go-ahead and later game-winning drive. This came after pinning Philly inside their ten twice earlier in the contest. Pace brought him back without competition on a two-year deal, so he clearly has faith in O’Donnell but it’s time for that faith to turn into results.
Scales will be the long snapper. He bounced around the league before finding a home in Chicago, with some injury-related bumps in the road. The Bears resigned him to another one-year deal this offseason.
And now for the kickers, Fry and Piñeiro. Fry was signed when the Alliance of American Football shut down, after it proved that Mike Singletary still can’t coach, Mike Martz still enjoys getting his quarterback killed, and Trent Richardson still stinks. Pace and the coaching staff have lauded his consistency, but they seem to recognize that his leg just isn’t strong enough to be a top of the line kicker. His upside, therefore, is low.
Piñeiro is essentially the opposite of Fry – his power is said to be excellent, but his accuracy needs lots of work. He spent last year on the Raiders’ injured reserve, and was traded to Chicago for a seventh-round pick that will only convey if he earns the spot and keeps it for five games. Reports out of OTAs on the Florida alum’s performance have been less than encouraging – all maintained that he has the best leg in the competition, but he struggled to put the ball through the uprights.
Key Training Camp Battle: You know damn well what this is
Matt Nagy confirmed at his pre-training camp press conference in Decatur that he won’t kick on third down in preseason games, but he did imply that he’d intentionally maneuver the team into kicking situations. So if you see some sort of draw on third and five in opponent territory during the coming weeks, that’s why.
Obviously, Nagy will do this to give his two kickers as many chances as possible to prove their worth (or lack thereof). He’s proven that he can be creative in manufacturing high-pressure situations for them in practice as well – it was no coincidence, of course, that he had all eight tryout kickers attempt a 43-yarder to finish the day – and we should expect to see more of that in Bourbonnais.
Keys to Success
1-3: For the love of god find someone who can make kicks
Out of those eight kickers who showed up to Halas Hall in May, only two made that 43-yard kick. Only one of those eight, Fry, remains on the Bears’ roster. Their venture into college free agency was a bust, they found no one with NFL experience, and we spent four months obsessing over a Robbie Gould reunion that was never going to happen.
To put it kindly, this has not gone well so far. It’s entirely possible that Gould put a curse on the team when they cut him after years of excellence. That – the former sentence in this paragraph, not the latter – is why Pace insists that the team is still scouring free agency and monitoring 31 other teams in search of possible solutions, and they’re not afraid to part with precious draft picks to find one.
The one position that has completely stumped Ryan Pace since he was hired as GM is kicker. That has to change, and soon, if the Bears are serious about a title run.