The Bears are not considering a change at kicker, coach Matt Nagy said, after Cody Parkey boinked four missed kicks off the uprights at Soldier Field in Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions.
Parkey was clearly frustrated with himself after a historically bad game, with two of those misses coming on PATs and the others coming on field goal attempts of 41 and 34 yards.
“It’s one of those things, obviously, it’s comical,” Parkey said. “I hit the post four times. I mean, that’s gotta be a stat, right? That’s gotta be impressive. But anyway, I let my team down today, I let myself down today and I just gotta keep swinging.”
The Bears signed Parkey to a four-year, $15 million contract with $9 million guaranteed in March, hoping the 25-year-old could be the solution to the placekicking woes that’ve followed this franchise since cutting ties with Robbie Gould after the 2015 season. That guaranteed money figure is tied for the third-highest among kickers, only behind New England’s Stephen Gostkowski ($10.1 million) and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker ($10.8 million).
A large reason why the Bears won’t entertain replacing Parkey is his contract. The Bears would lose $3.5 million in cap space if they were to cut him now, and releasing him after the season wouldn’t result in any cap savings, either, according to Spotrac. He’s all but locked in to be the Bears’ kicker for the next two years unless things get so bad that the Bears absolutely have to release him.
But that hasn’t happened yet, and it would take a lot more than one horrendous game and a missed kick here or there — including what would’ve been a long game-winner against the Miami Dolphins — for the Bears to get to that point. Nagy, though, admitted that Parkey’s issues affected him as a playcaller on Sunday, to the point where the Bears ran a two-point conversion attempt after their final touchdown instead of having Parkey kick a PAT.
“In my head, there's a balance of showing trust to him by putting him back out there, but then there's also a level of understanding what's best for the team,” Nagy said. “Sometimes you just have those days. So my trust is not shot at all with him. I know everybody else is going to feel that way and I get it and that's okay. But where we're at right now, we just keep going and like I said, he's going to hit some big kicks for us just like he did last week to keep himself going.”
The worry for the Bears is what happens if they need Parkey to connect on a critical kick in a close game later in the season. Ryan Pace signed him to that deal to be the guy who can hit those kicks that can determine if a team makes the playoffs or not. It won’t be every week where the Bears’ offense and defense plays well enough for a string of missed kicks to be a non-factor.
Parkey’s teammates, though, had his back after Sunday’s game.
“We have all the faith in the world in him,” tight end Trey Burton said. “I’ve seen him make unbelievable kicks. I wouldn’t want to kick in these conditions. We’re all behind him. No one’s pointing fingers at him, no one’s against him. We’re all trying to see what we can to do help him.”
“The criticism outside that I got this past week, have gotten all season long, my teammates have my back and it's the same way with Cody, we're going to have his back,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “We see him boot the crap out of the ball in practice so everyone has a bad game every once in a while so we're going to rally around him, continue to have his back and I know next week when we need it he's going to make a big kick and we're not even going to think twice about it, we're a family in that locker room, we have each other's back no matter what.”
For Parkey, all he can do is move on from a frustrating, embarrassing game and trust that it won’t happen again. He trusts himself, his teammates trust him, his coaches trust him. But until he proves he can make kicks at Soldier Field, or in big situations, it’ll be hard for fans to trust him. That’s why one of the louder cheers of the game came when it was announced to the crowd at Soldier Field that the Bears were going for a two-point conversion and not having Parkey kick a PAT.
“Yeah, I feel bad for myself but my teammates all cheer me up,” Parkey said. “We won the game, so that’s always nice, but at the end of the day it’s honestly not too hard knowing the work I’ve put in leading up to this point, and this is my fifth year in the NFL, I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m going to keep doing it.”