By Wanda Wiedman // WandaW63
Not since the missed kick-doink heard round the world has there been such emphasis on a kicker. It’s not like this was the first time a kicker has missed a field goal in a crucial game. Ask any Buffalo Bills fan. The Lombardi Trophy was in their grasp ready to be hoisted and it rested on the leg of Scott Norwood. With just eight seconds on the clock, Norwood kicks it and it has the distance, going towards the center, only to veer right missing the post altogether. Absolute heartbreak.
Kickers that were known to be clutch in games came from the likes of Billy Cundiff, Morten Andersen, Chandler Catanzaro, Gary Anderson, Adam Vinatieri, and Robbie Gould. Granted they had their share of missed kicks, costing them crucial games. But the one that hurt the Bears came from the Voldemort of Chicago, Cody Parkey. After having an incredible season, winning the NFC North that has eluded them since 2010, the Wild Card game was left on the leg of Parkey. Nothing can erase the facial expressions of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky or defensive end Akiem Hicks after that missed kick. Yes, Parkey hung his head in disbelief but “playing with the wind” on a crucial kick is bound to fail you.
So the hunt for a kicker began but not just an ordinary kicker. The Bears are looking for a kicker who can kick through fire, rain, wind, sleet, snow or any other element for that matter. They want a kicker who doesn’t practice hitting poles. They want a kicker who doesn’t play with the wind. The Bears want a kicker that, when his number is called can walk on the field with confidence with that confidence translating to his coach and teammates that the kick will be good every single time. That kicker, whoever it will be, will have the respect of his teammates and Bears Nation.
That is why the Bears are taking every precaution by putting the current three placekickers on the roster to the test. All-time leader in field goals and extra points for Pittsburgh University Chris Blewitt has never kicked in an NFL game. Former American Alliance of Football kicker Elliot Fry, of the now-defunct spring football league the Orlando Apollos, was good enough to stay in the trio. He converted 14 attempted field goals, the longest from 44 yards out. But it was the trade the Bears made this past May with the Oakland Raiders for Eddy Pineiro in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2021 that caught my eye.
Pineiro was a soccer player who went on an open tryout at the University of Alabama and was chosen out of over a hundred placekickers but went on to play for the University of Florida instead. He had the best field goal percentage in the nation at 94.4% (17-18). With all that being said, the Bears have taken three kickers that they feel have what it takes and are putting them to the test in every possible scenario.
But why is there so much emphasis on a placekicker? Seriously, are other teams spending so much time testing their kickers through a gauntlet of kicks? Not really. However, it is safe to say that after the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on a kick, the meeting the next day started off with, “we are never going to be in this position again. I don’t care what it takes, but the next kicker is going through hell to get this job”.
To be honest, the Chicago Bears are not merely looking to replace a kicker, but are striving for perfection as a team which includes the kicker. I would be shocked if the next Chicago Bears kicker missed any field goals this year, including those over 40-plus yards. Who knows, maybe the kicker will be the MVP on the way to the Super Bowl in 2019.
Talk Bears with Wanda on Twitter @WandaW63