If he is embittered by the abrupt, surprising end of his legendary Bears career, it was nowhere in Robbie Gould’s voice on Tuesday.
“I’ve just had a heck of a run, but all great things come to an end,” Gould told CSNChicago.com after talking earlier privately in a call to Bears owner Virginia McCaskey. “I’m not upset about it at all. It’s performance-based, and I know they have a lot of very difficult decisions to make. I always tried to make those decisions hard for them.
“But I couldn’t have had a better story than I’ve had here over the last 11 years. I’ve had so many memories. How could I possibly be bitter or mad. As I told Mrs. McCaskey, ‘My only big regret is that I didn’t win you a Super Bowl.’
“What I’m going to miss is the building, Halas Hall, and all the people, talking every day to [equipment manager] Tony Medlin and everyone. I’ll just have to do it by phone now.
“I’ll be a Bear and Bears fan for life.”
Gould said that he was surprised when he got the call to come over to Bears offices and meet with coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace. But he said he and wife Lauren currently plan on making Chicago their permanent home, but his immediate plan is to continue playing. Whether the couple and two young children all move to his new team city, they hadn’t decided yet.
“We’re going through all the options now,” Gould said. “I’m still playing at a high level, and I think a fresh start’ll even be good, even though it’s awfully hard to say goodbye to Chicago and the Bears, who made all of this possible.”
Performance-based? Actually, yes
Because of Gould’s status within the game and all he contributed to one of the NFL’s charter franchise, objectivity can be difficult, particularly when his replacement — Connor Barth — hasn’t been his career equal to date.
But Gould himself saw the Bears’ decision as performance-based, and a hard look at comparisons between Gould and Barth support Gould’s assessment.
The most obvious reason, however, may have been qualitative: The head coach of the Chicago Bears simply wasn’t sufficiently confident in his kicker.
“At the end of the day, we found an option that we were comfortable with,” Fox said on Monday, a pretty clear statement that he and the Bears just weren’t comfortable with Gould. “And everything we do is based on performance and what we feel like gets us better.”
Fox’s comfort level with Gould took a hit in Cleveland, which may have still been preseason but Gould missed more PAT’s (two) in that game as Barth has for his career (one). And Gould missed one PAT in each of the last three regular seasons. (For comparative balance, however, Gould missed exactly one PAT in his first eight NFL seasons.
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Taking a hard comparative look at the performances of the new guy vs. the greatest kicker in franchise history suggests that Fox and Pace have their reasons.
Gould is incrementally better when the two careers are compared, and that includes outdoor field-goal attempts, extremely relevant given that the Bears typically play at least 12 of their 16 games every season outdoors.
Which then points to age and money as factors. The Bears would have paid $3 million vs. less than $1 million for a kicker four years older and who has converted less than one more field goal per 100 attempts over his career. Were this strictly a money move, the Bears could find justification.
Recent performance, however, is more relevant, and on that basis, other reasons arise.
|2014-15 outdoor FGs||78.0%||85.7%|
If there is one other single biggest reason for concern, it lies in Soldier Field. Not the annual dreaded-turf drudgery, but rather, the wind. Gould successfully achieved his level of greatness kicking in one of the most historically difficult kicking venues in the NFL, with the supplementary added difficulty factor of playing the final month of the season in sometimes Arctic conditions.
Barth has never kicked in a regular season game in Soldier Field. But he has been better outdoors over the past two seasons than Gould, the NFL’s best.
“I’ve played in some colder weather places in Denver and some like that,” Barth said. “You’ve just got to go out there and trust what you’ve been practicing all week and just go out there and take it one kick at a time.”