Eddy Pineiro said Sunday he knows he’s on thin ice, even after the Bears made him the only kicker on their roster in waiving Elliott Fry. But coach Matt Nagy doesn’t want him thinking that when he lines up for a field goal in the Bears’ final practices and preseason games.
It’s a tough balance to strike, especially for a team and region still scarred by the infamous double-doink nearly eight months ago.
“It’s really easy in Chicago as a head coach of the Chicago Bears, as a fan of the Chicago Bears, as the media (covering) the Chicago Bears, as the team of the Chicago Bears, it’s really easy for us to just destroy every missed kick,” Nagy said. “And I think we have to keep those things in a little perspective and not get too crazy over a missed kick here or there. And so there’s that balance though, right? That’s where we’re at.
“… Does it matter, or does he think that if he misses a kick he’s out of here, no, he doesn’t think that because I told him just go kick, worry about the next kick, the next play. It’s the same thing I tell Mitchell (Trubisky) after he throws a pick, worry about the next play.”
Nagy said he’s been pleased with how Pineiro has bounced back from missed kicks, and knows those misses will happen. The question is if they’re happening too frequently for Pineiro to make this team, with these last two preseason games looming as critical data points.
Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have been open about monitoring kicking situations around the league to see if a better kicker than Pineiro could become available. What, for example, Joey Slye does with the Carolina Panthers or Cole Hedlund with the Indianapolis Colts — two kickers the Bears will have scouted in person by the end of the preseason — will carry significant weight against Pineiro’s production with the Bears.
With 10 days remaining until cuts, it’s unclear if the Bears’ answer to their kicking woes is on their team or is elsewhere around the league. But time is running out, and every make or miss will be even more amplified leading up to Labor Day weekend.
Nagy said he talked with Pineiro about these last few practices and games, and while he wouldn’t divulge what those conversations entailed, it sounded as if the second-year coach wanted to convey support for the only kicker on his roster.
“I have his back,” Nagy said. “And confidence is big for any position. I don’t want Eddy thinking that every missed kicked that he makes, uh oh, they’re looking for somebody else, etc. Just go out there and just kick.”
Sports Illustrated’s Kayln Kahler published a detailed story about the Bears’ kicking competition to date, with plenty of interesting anecdotes (and pictures) from rookie minicamp’s nine-kicker sideshow. Give it a read here if you haven’t already.
Nagy said he hadn’t seen the article, which didn’t paint the Bears’ search for a kicker in an particularly positive light. At least one kicker questioned the role of Jamie Kohl — the kicking coach brought in as a consultant — in the process, while the Bears’ use of advanced tracking devices raised some eyebrows, too:
“Why does [mph] even matter?” asks one kicker, who requested anonymity for fear of hurting his chances to latch on with another team. “If it’s going in, it’s going in. I think they are overanalyzing it. Find a kicker, bring him in. If he does well, keep him going. If he cracks, then let him go.”
Nagy, though, said he felt like the Bears’ search for a kicker has been a positive in that the team committed to “turn over every stone” to discover Parkey’s replacement. Still, after Fry was released on Sunday, none of the nine kickers present at rookie minicamp remained on the roster (the Bears acquired Pineiro shortly after that weekend).
“Whatever competition you’re in, when there’s a bunch of people and you either stay or go, you’re working through some adversity and you’re showing what you can do,” Nagy said. “Whoever of those kickers that were here, we had a reason for bringing them in, and a reason for not keeping them. It’s nothing personal – it’s just what we saw.
“It’s where we’re at right now, and I just feel like Eddy’s done a great job of being put in situations. And now in preseason, given an opportunity to do well, he’s done well, but how’s he going to do going forward?”
That question, ultimately, will determine if the Bears’ search for a kicker in the wake of Parkey’s double-doink was a positive or a negative. And we won’t begin know the answer to it until the night of Sept. 5.