Will Eddy Pineiro be the Bears’ kicker in 2020?

Will Eddy Pineiro be the Bears’ kicker in 2020?

Back in early October, while the Bears basked in the glow of Eddy Pineiro hitting a game-winning kick and then gutting through the pain of a pinched nerve to make nine of his next 10 kicks, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said something that explains the team’s approach to their now-struggling young kicker. 

“We’re in the process of developing a player,” Tabor said. “He’s checking off boxes. … There’s going to be a lot more boxes to check off. I always say we’re not in a hurry to hit everything.

“It’s a developmental process. As things come up, let’s address it, go after it and just take it day by day, just kinda keep getting better step by step.”

Pineiro’s developmental process has not been linear in 2019. It was on a steady incline until Week 8, when he missed two field goals — including a game-winner from 41 yards and non-preferred hashmark — against the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Then, in Los Angeles on Sunday, Pineiro missed two field goals in the first quarter from 47 and 48 yards. Sandwiched between those misses was a decision by coach Matt Nagy to try to convert a fourth-and-nine instead of having Pineiro attempt a 49-yard field goal. 

Pineiro’s line over the last month, then, has precipitously trended down to the point where the city’s mayor took a shot at him during a press conference. But the Bears did not bring in a kicker or kickers for a tryout this week at Halas Hall, instead remaining steadfast in their commitment to Pineiro being their kicker. 

“I have confidence in him,” Tabor said Thursday. “We just (told him) ‘Hey, you're our guy, let's go.’ So that's the deal. But at the same time, it's a production-based business. You need to make kicks.”

Pineiro has made 12 of 17 field goals (70.6 percent) this year, along with 17 of 18 extra points. But he’s missed four of his last 14 kicks (field goals and PATs), leading to his coach not exhibiting much trust in him with his actions, even if his words say differently. 

“We’re all frustrated,” Nagy said. “He knows he wants to make those. But now it’s going to be a challenge to, let’s see him come back here and nail it. I have ultimate faith that he’s going to do that and now we’ll see when he’s given the chance.” 

How much longer the Bears remain patient with Pineiro, though, remains to be seen. It’s clear they like him inside Halas Hall and believe in his potential and leg strength — if they didn’t, they could’ve brought in a few kickers off the street for a tryout to at least try to light a fire under him — but Nagy’s actions on gamedays do not indicate a deep, unrelenting trust. 

And that’s a problem for the Bears as the focus shifts to if this team can contend again in 2020. Nagy will need to be able to trust whomever his kicker is next year, at least to the point where he’s not tempted to try to convert a fourth-and-long instead of kicking a long-ish field goal. 

Still, the Bears are giving Pineiro the first — and best — opportunity to prove himself worthy of being their kicker of the future. The Bears may bring in OTA and minicamp competition for him regardless, but the final six games of 2019 will be about building a foundation of trust between coach and kicker. 

That is, assuming the Bears’ trust in Pineiro’s talent doesn’t run out between now and the end of December. 

If it does, the Bears could be right back in the same place they were earlier this year: A national punchline for kicking woes, and a team without any answers. 

“He’s a good player,” Tabor said of Pineiro Thursday. “There’s no doubt about that. He had a rough night. … This is the next challenge in his development. How’s he gonna bounce back? And I think he’ll bounce back well.”

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Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

The Bears have completely flipped the narrative of their 2019 season over the last three weeks, thanks in large part to Matt Nagy's offense finally resembling the 202-level that was promised last summer.

It may have taken quarterback Mitch Trubisky a little longer than expected to arrive this year, but if his last two games are an indication of his development in his second season under Nagy's tutelage, the Bears have a bonafide quarterback. And it's been a while since that could be said.

"Mitchell Trubisky is hot, there's no doubt about it," NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said Thursday. "He seems so much more comfortable. Decisive. He's accurate with the football. Running around at the proper time. I don't think it was all Mitchell Trubisky's fault with the struggles of the offense, either."

Those struggles spanned the first half of 2019 when Chicago seemed incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points. It began with Week 1's three-point output against the Packers and continued through Thanksgiving Day when Trubisky finally got his mojo back, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions.

With Trubisky clicking, and the running game receiving a jolt from rookie David Montgomery's productive back-to-back weeks (in which he's averaged more than four yards per carry in successive games for the first time all year), the Bears appear capable of beating just about anyone. 

They'll need to. If Chicago wants to keep their weak playoff pulse going, they have to win out. And that includes games against the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings. 

The odds seem stacked against them, and it's their own fault. It took way too long to get the offense going, but it's better late than never. 

According to Simms, the Bears are that team no one wants to play.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They really are."

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Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

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