Football

And then there was one.

Eddy Piñeiro is the lone kicker remaining from the Bears extensive offseason search to replace ol’ double-doink, Cody Parkey. Steady Eddy won the right to kick sans competition about as much as the recently cut Elliot “J” Fry lost the job, so sure. Congrats.

But the recent damning article by SI’s Kalyn Kahler about the brief history of this unending quest tells us Eddy shouldn’t get too comfortable. When you have NFL folks quoted as saying that Cody Parkey is easily better than anyone they’ve brought in, Piñeiro included, you best watch your back. You can read the article for the rest of the behind the scenes of what any sane person knew was a batshit circus of a competition; it’s worth your time. You’ll also learn that most of this shit show is probably for nothing, since kicking is based solely on in game results, which no one can tell until September 5th.

But I’m not here to rehash the last few months and, assuming this is not at all over, I want to take a look at the new crop of kickers our pal Eddy is now up against: THE LEAGUE.

The Field – Joey Slye: Best of the rest, but at what cost?

True, the Bears already spent some draft capital on the kicker currently on the team, but he hasn’t made one longer than 47 in a fake games and Slye Stallone here has banged in two from 54+, one of which fans at Soldier got to see in person. He’s a perfect 5-5 on FG attempts and 2/2 on XP. Ryan Pace failed to trade for Kaare Vedvik last week, losing to the rival Vikings because they stumped up to an unconditional 5th rounder. Pace might have to go back to the draft well for Slye instead, as there at plenty others, like the Jets and Cowboys, that have far from certainty at the position.

Slye hasn’t exactly shown a proven record outside of this preseason: Slye was undrafted in 2018, then bounced around from the Bucs to the Browns to out of football to the Giants to summer vacation to the Giants again and eventually landing in Carolina, where he was signed to keep a spot warm until Graham Gano was healthy enough to reclaim his job. Slye has a pretty great backstory of battling adversity and working to achieve his NFL goals in the name of his late brother. He’d hardly be difficult to root for, lack of results be damned. And with a nickname like “Swole”, he’s already earned the hearts of meatball fans without pulling on the GHS armband.

Slye can boast that he’s Virginia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, though. And there are those long makes and impressive ability to simply make the kicks in games. You have to wonder how this guy wasn’t one of the billion legs brought in for a look already, but here we are. It might take a late conditional pick, but Slye passes the eye test which is about all that matters in kicking. The Bears can ill afford to wait it out and hope they can sign him at final cuts, but I also think if they were interested Pace has shown he’ll spend to go get his guy.

A few other notables to watch the next two weeks….

  • Matthew Wright is unlikely to boot incumbent Chris Boswell from his job in Pittsburgh, but the 2019 UDFA is 2/2 from over 40 with a pair of XP as well. Plus, kicking in Heinz is as a good a comparable as any outdoor stadium in the league.
  • Tristan Vizcaino is 2/3 on FGA through two games, going 1/2 from 40+ and nailing a 51 yarder. He  probably won’t win the job over Randy Bullock in Cincinnati. If Piñeiro fails to impress further he might get a call from Pace around Labor Day.
  • Veterans Matt Bryant, Mike Nugent and Kai Forbath all remain unsigned as we approach kickoff in week 1. Bryant may well be done at 41 and isn’t likely to push off retirement to kick in Chicago in December. Nugent and Forbath are probably better than the circus from mini camp, but it’d be unlikely the Bears dial any of them up over anyone already kicking the last month-plus.

NFC North Kicker Thunderdome….

  • Sam Ficken and Mason Crosby are having their own battle up in Green Bay, who were also reportedly in on Vedvik. Ficken and Crosby are both 1/1 on FGA (41/43, respectively), so not much to show yet. Both are perfect on XP as well, so the loser here might not have to wait long for new work if it’s more a coin flip situation than one kicks his was out of town.
  • Minnesota made their intentions clear when they sent a 5th round pick to Baltimore for Kaare Vedvik – he’s pretty much assured to be the guy. That leaves veteran Dan Bailey in limbo, a spot he’s familiar with after a surprise cut from his long time job in Dallas ahead of the 2018 campaign. Bailey is also struggling mightily this preseason, a year after going only 21-28 in FGA for the Vikings. Hard pass if I’m Ryan Pace, but who knows with the way this thing has gone so far.

 

 

Football

vs.

RECORDS: CHI 0-1 NYG 1-0, not that it matters

KICKOFF: 6:30 pm

TV: Fox 32

RADIO: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

NEWARK ISN’T NEW YORK: Big Blue View

This week the fake slate takes the Bears out to somewhere in New Jersey to play the New York FOOTBALL Giants. Let’s check in on how everything is going for the NFC East’s fail sons this week:

Yeah…sounds about right for the team that traded away Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham on purpose for a bunch of picks and Jabrill Peppers, which they’ll use to replace All-Pro Safety Landon Collins. Oh, and he ended up with division rival Washington in an effort to destroy his old organization.

The aforementioned Daniel Jones was the big “prize” of the Giants many first round picks, and his debut last week was literally perfect for one single series, and it sounds like his head coach is ready to give him a lot more to chew on. The Bears will probably still get a decent amount of somehow still relevant Eli Manning to start, and for no real good reason Saquon Barkley. Given the amount of injuries at skill positions/pass catchers, I’d think Pat Shurmur would rather not risk what he’s got left, but if that tweet is to be believed John Mara might be making these kinds of decisions. Praying for Evan Engram‘s safety, folks.

The Giants defense is very thin basically everywhere, and the secondary made Sam Darnold look very, very good last week in an especially disastrous display. Cornerback Deandre Baker is likely out, along with Linebacker Alec Ogletree, so the results could very well be the same this week. Sean Chandler is a name that the Giants beat seems to think pretty highly of, so maybe watch for him to try and make a play or two on the back end.

The Bears spent most of the week fighting each other, puking, and trying to control the narrative around Mitchell Trubisky and his development (or lack thereof).  There was also a lot of love, and rightfully so, for rookie RB David Montgomery. Honestly, this was a pretty slow week with the team moving back up to Halas Hall from Bourbonnais, but Matt Nagy may be outsmarting himself this pre-season. His “mock game” where he held a 60-minute controlled, padded practice between his top units led to an injury to Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long beating Jalen Dalton with his own helmet. Long boasts this as his second fight of the week, and this one ended as he went to the sideline and immediately vomited before leaving practice. Nothing to see here.

The main things to watch tonight, unfortunately, are still the kickers. One of the better options from the outside (Vedvik) was snapped up by the Vikings of all teams, so Ryan Pace will likely have to spend some draft capital of his own on a new PK if Fry and Pineiro keep failing to impress. Nagy went out of his way to praise Trubs’ development in reading the defense thus far, so his performance is actually pretty important as well. Pick apart a shaky secondary and I’ll be a believer, but if he struggles with his footwork and accuracy while missing reads in his limited role he and his coach will have some splainin’ to do; especially after the multiple melees and Long’s attitude issues this week.

I guess that’s at least partially predicated on either Mitch or Long even playing, as Nagy is still acting coy on whether or not Mitch throws one pass in the entirety of the preseason. I don’t think a whole lot will be learned once this one ends (especially if we get another three hand-offs and out for Mitch), but they’re gonna play it regardless and I’m gonna watch it because that’s what we do, friends. Enjoy the show. Maybe Long gets a few snaps to scrap with someone not on his team.

Football

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.