I know that football coaches are obsessives beyond the point of comprehension. I get that every minute detail of the team is pored over to a degree that a lazy-ass like myself would think comes from another dimension. “Fixation” is a word that most NFL coaches are so far beyond it’s not even worth considering. And most of it is because they just feel the other guy is doing the same, even if it has no actual benefit and it wouldn’t kill anyone if these coaches actually bothered to learn their daughters’ names.
Still, the Bears’ offseason and now training camp being primarily focused on the kicking competition has been…well, there are a few words for it. Strange, annoying, needless, and inflammatory are some that come to mind. To the point where I’m wondering what’s really going on here.
Yeah, I get it. Cody Parkey made this worse by going on whatever national morning show and removing his own rib to show how much missing THAT KICK hurt him but what a big guy he was by moving on from it. That in itself is going to create more attention on the position than normal, whether the Bears booted him into the river or not (I’ll give Parkey this, he did the whole “Point To Jesus” thing after he fucked up as well, which is more than most fuck-you-pious athletes do).
But it’s gone beyond that. We had the “Kicking Cavalcade” in mini-camps, with everyone being forced to make a 43-yarder in front of the whole team. Or Nagy mentioning it while singing the stretch at Wrigley. Or his constant reminders in interviews about how the ending of last season haunts him. Or making the two kickers in camp make 43-yarders, and how the first preseason game contained a field goal of that exact length in the first half. And how symbolic that was.
We’ve been inundated with updates from all the Bears beats every day. Our Sons Of Wilber Marshall have had to address it here. You can’t escape. It’s everywhere.
Fuck right off.
At this point, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a cover. Because somewhere deep down, Matt Nagy knows that game didn’t have to come down to a makable-but-not-chip-shot kick. Somewhere, he knows if he hadn’t spent at least the first half against the Eagles calling plays with one hand around his throat and the other with the thumb somewhere sensitive, maybe the Bears are playing from on top. Maybe he knows that at the biggest drive of the season, his defense let him down and got run over by Nick Goddamn Foles and the wounded ducks he was tossing only in a general direction. He certainly would have to be aware of the former, as it would be the second straight year he spent at least a half of a playoff game making his offense run a three-legged race. If he’s not, that’s certainly a much bigger problem for the Bears moving forward.
I doubt he’s intentionally hanging Ryan Pace out to dry, but that’s certainly a knock-on effect. And while Pace is hardly perfect, he did construct a roster ready to turn Nagy into one of the most successful first-year coaches in history. Perhaps tone it down a notch there, visor?
And this isn’t healthy. What kicker is going to live up to this? Now you’ve whipped the fans into a frenzy, the press into one, and those two just keep feeding into each other. The Bears could gut the Packers in Week 1 34-3 (which they will), but if whatever kicker is chosen misses one field goal, you know what the calls will be about Monday, right? What at least one article in each of the Trib, Sun-Times, and Athletic will be? It’s now a constant question until the end of the season, and nothing will ever be good enough until Mystery Kicker makes a winning kick in a playoff game.
Except that might not come up. Close games are inevitable in January, but they hinge on a lot of factors. Yes, field goals are directly tied to points in the way that a more adventurous call on second or third down at the 40 is not. Or a missed tackle behind the line that results in a three-yard gain instead. But teams have won the Super Bowl without needing a buzzer-beater. I know, hard to believe, but it’s true.
But still, it’s a kicker. It’s middle relief of football. You find one somewhere, he sticks around for a few years, and then you find another one. Had you heard of Aldrick Rosas before last year? Do you even know who it is now? He’s the Giants kicker and finished second in FG% last season. Mike Badgley? You don’t have any idea, and if you do it’s only because he was on your fantasy team, and he was assuredly your last pick or waiver pick-up.
They just come from somewhere. Even if it’s your team, you don’t really know where. And yeah, it’s noticeable when you pick a bad one, as the Bears did last season. It happens sometimes, but to say that’s the reason the season was torpedoed is missing the whole picture. Me? I’m much more worried about Mitch Betta’ Have My Money’s accuracy.
I don’t want to say it’s untenable. I doubt there’s no kicker anywhere who can’t put everyone’s mind at ease within the season’s first few weeks. But it shouldn’t have to be like this. If it works as a cover for other weaknesses on the team as they get worked out…well, ok. I guess. Seems like it’s a pretty elaborate and heavy-worked smokescreen, though.