Kicking success and the Chicago Bears just don’t go together.
The Bears haven’t been able to find any consistency at the position since they cut longtime kicker Robbie Gould before the 2016 season. After 11 years with Gould, the Bears shuffled through Connor Barth, Cairo Santos, and Mike Nugent over the next two seasons. None of them were able to fill the void, and the Bears plummeted from 18th in field goal percentage in 2015 to 27th and 29th.
To solve the kicking issues that plagued them, they threw a four-year, $15 million contract to Cody Parkey during the 2018 offseason. At the time, that looked like a solid move. Parkey was 26 when he signed the deal and was an 86.4 percent field goal kicker before his time in Chicago.
For some reason — perhaps the wind — that past success didn’t translate for Parkey. He hit 76.7 percent of his field goals in 2018, just one year removed from a 91.3 percent mark in Miami. Parkey’s struggles kicking the ball during the regular season were frustrating for the Bears, but that wasn’t even the worst of it.
With one miss on Jan. 6, Parkey made an impact on the Bears’ organization that would never be forgotten — and made sure that the team’s offseason would be centered around its kicking situation.
The Double Doink that kicked off Chicago’s offseason
Jan. 6 — Cody Parkey misses a 43-yard field goal in the Wild Card Round
Chicago was down, 16-15, to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round. In the final seconds of the game, Parkey came on to attempt what would’ve been a game-winning 43-yard field goal.
Then Parkey’s kick was grazed by an Eagles defender before “double doinking” off the uprights, ending the Bears’ season.
If Parkey had made the kick, it would’ve given the Bears their first playoff win in eight seasons. Instead, the Bears, their fans, and especially Parkey, went home sad.
Jan. 11 — Cody Parkey goes on the Today show
Days after missing the kick that would have sent the Bears to the Divisional Round, Parkey made an appearance on Today. Parkey owned up to his failure on national television and left a positive message about himself and his career.
Parkey proclaimed that neither the play nor his profession define him. He said, “football is what I do. It’s not who I am.”
Jan. 12 — 103 Bears fans try to hit a 43-yard field goal
To help deal with their playoff grief, Bears fans tried to hit a 43-yard field goal — the same distance of the kick that Parkey missed. Goose Island Beer Company put the challenge together, which is fitting considering alcohol is the best way to numb the pain of losing in that manner.
103 people attempted the kick, and all 103 people missed.
In a press conference a few days after Parkey’s miss, Bears head coach Matt Nagy was asked about Parkey’s television appearance — something he was obviously thrilled to be talking about.
Nagy’s cliche game was on point, saying that Parkey going on television “wasn't too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
Parkey’s decision to go on Today was met with a mixed bag of reactions by fans and it ultimately was his last major act as a member of the Chicago Bears.
Feb. 22 — Bears cut Cody Parkey
Less than a year after signing Parkey to a four-year deal, the Bears cut him a few weeks before the new league year.
That decision didn’t come without penalty to the Bears. Even though he’s not on the roster, Chicago still owes Parkey $3.5 million for the 2019 season and has to carry a little over $5 million worth of dead cap.
A glimmer of hope with Robbie Gould
Months after the Parkey saga ended, Bears fans were met with a potential resolution to their kicker woes when Gould, now with the 49ers, demanded a trade.
San Francisco hit Gould with the franchise tag this offseason, but the kicker decided he would not sign it or negotiate a longterm deal with the 49ers.
Gould was the Bears’ kicker from 2005-15. During his time in Chicago, he hit 85.4 percent of his field goals. In the past three years away from Chicago, Gould has upped that number to 96.5 percent. Considering Gould still has a house in Illinois, a reunion seemed like an attractive option to Bears fans.
April 25 — Robbie Gould not expected to be traded
Moving on from Cody Parkey and the idea of Robbie Gould
May 3 — Bears host the Cody Parkey Kick Challenge at rookie camp
With Parkey gone and the Gould dream dead, Chicago had to move on and attempt to find a new kicker. That journey started at the Bears’ rookie camp, where they had eight kickers trying out for the team.
They had those kickers try to hit a — you guessed it — 43-yard field goal at camp and, let’s just say, it did not go as planned. Only two of the eight kickers, John Baron II and Spencer Evans, put it through the uprights.
That’s bad, just in case you were wondering.
May 3 — Bears hire a kicking consultant
On the same day the Bears had their kicking challenge, they also brought on a kicking consultant for the 2019 season. They hired Jamie Kohl of Kohl’s Professional Camps to help train their kickers, punters, and long snappers.
Kohl runs special teams camps that help send high school specialists to Division I teams. Perhaps his expertise will pay off for the Bears as well.
May 5 — Bears clean out their rookie camp kickers
At the end of Chicago’s rookie camp, they only decided to keep two of the eight kickers who took part in the Cody Parkey Kick Challenge — Chris Blewitt (there’s tremendous joke potential here if he makes the team) and Elliott Fry.
The Bears didn’t keep either kicker who actually made the 43-yard field goal. We’ll see if that comes back to bite them in the butt next postseason.
May 7 — Bears trade for Eddy Pineiro from Oakland
The latest development in the Bears’ quest for kicking stability was to trade for one. They sent a 2021 conditional seventh-round pick — the draft pick equivalent of a ham sandwich — to the Raiders for Eddy Pineiro.
Pineiro, Blewitt, and Fry will duke it out to see which one of them gets the chance to make Bears fans angry throughout the 2019 season.
June 12 — Bears waive Chris Blewitt
One kicking candidate is gone. The Bears waived Chris Blewitt, leaving Pineiro and Fry to fight for the job.
August 8 — A little bit of kicking issues versus Carolina
The Bears’ kickers had an up-and-down performance in their preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. Funny enough, Elliott Fry hit a 43-yard field goal to close out the first half. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who spent his entire playing career with the Bears, called a timeout before the kick because he wanted to help them.
After the half, Eddy Pineiro came in the game and missed one of his of two field goal attempts. Fry has the lead in a tightly contested battle.
This is one of the few times a Super Bowl contender has their offseason dominated by a single play — a special teams play at that. The biggest discussion surrounding a team with Khalil Mack and the reigning Coach of the Year is finding a kicker.
Losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, replacing Jordan Howard, and needing to improve their offense without a first- or second-round pick has somehow taken a backseat to the kicker position. For the sake of the Bears and their fans, they better hope that situation is better in 2019.