Bears

Robbie Gould on his release by Bears: 'It was performance-based'

Robbie Gould on his release by Bears: 'It was performance-based'

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.”

[RELATED: Bears' release of Robbie Gould appeared to be two-step process]

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.

Category Gould Barth
Age 34 30
Salary $3 million $885,000
Career FGs 85.4% 84.8%
Outdoor FGs 84.4% 83.6%

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.

Category Gould Barth
2014-15 FGs 82.4% 86.7%
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.”

Could the Bears have done more to help their offensive line in loss to the Packers?

Could the Bears have done more to help their offensive line in loss to the Packers?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mitch Trubisky finished the Bears’ season-ending loss to the Green Bay Packers with his second-highest passing yards total of the season (334). The obvious and obligatory caveat: he reached that total on 53 attempts, good for a meager 6.3 yards per attempt.

That point has been central the popular laments of Trubisky and the Bears offense. When things tighten up and the pocket constricts — as happened early and often against a boisterous Packers pass rush on Sunday — Trubisky is often prone to shoddy footwork, erratic backfoot throws and general checkdownery. 

Those themes pervaded Sunday’s game. Kenny Clark, specifically, feasted, notching two sacks on the afternoon and seemingly disrupting every rush the Bears attempted between the tackles. Trubisky completed 29 of his 53 passes, good for a 54.7 completion percentage. 

“I felt like they were pretty good,” Trubisky said. “They had a really good front.”

The protection around Trubisky was inconsistent all day, but on plays when Trubisky found success, he operated with a clean line-of-sight and space to step up into. According to Trubisky, that’s not a matter of coincidence.

“I felt like our O-line played really well. I thought we could’ve taken more pressure off them moving in the pocket a little more and me getting out,” Trubisky said after the game. “We’ve got to continue to find ways to take pressure off our O-line. With a good rush like that, continue to mix it up, whether it’s with screens, running it, draws — all that kind of stuff helps.

“Could’ve done a lot of stuff, yeah,” Trubisky added, when asked if he thought the team could have done more to help the offensive line.

But he also credited the Packers’ defense for making things difficult on them. Matt Nagy did the same.

“There’s some things they did. We know what some of that is, and that’s just week-to-week how that goes,” Nagy said. “We’ve got to find out how to communicate that. Not every week is going to be like last week running the football. That’s just how it goes.”

Juxtaposing those sentiments seems to illustrate a rift between quarterback and coach, which would explain the stilted, hot-and-cold nature of  the Bears’ 2019 offense. As the team now turns the page towards the final chapter of a largely forgettable season, the interplay between Trubisky and Nagy is worth monitoring — even without potential postseason contention to fixate on. 

After all, regardless of your thoughts on either, the most likely scenario for the Bears’ 2020 season involves each of them again dictating the fates. As for today, though, the feeling of wanting more stings.

But it wasn’t an entirely discouraging outing for Trubisky. Embedded in a 13-point team performance that fell woefully short of keeping the Bears’ season alive were the flashes we’ve come to expect from him — flashes that make you wonder if, in the right situations, Trubisky could be capable of helming a potent NFL offense. 

One sequence stands out in this respect: Late in the second quarter, with the Bears trailing 7-0, Trubisky sold a play-action fake and grooved a 33-yard pass to Anthony Miller in stride, taking the Bears down to the Packers’ 28-yard line. The team rushed to the line, then Trubisky ran a timely RPO keeper, on which a fake to David Montgomery opened enough space for Trubisky to scramble for nine yards and into the red zone. 

To that point in the game, the Bears had not run the ball effectively (after the first quarter, Montgomery and Tarik Cohen had combined for -2 yards on five rush attempts). But they’d done enough establishing the run to open up some inventive actions for Trubisky, actions that allowed him to utilize his most valuable asset: his feet. 

Two of Trubisky’s other most dazzling throws of the day — one an across-the-body sling to Riley Ridley to convert a 3rd-and-5 early in the second quarter, and a play-action rope down the sideline to Allen Robinson in the third — both featured a moving pocket. 

It’s no secret he and the Bears offense are at their best and most unpredictable when he’s free and loose.

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Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

The Bears' Week 15 loss to the Packers brings to an end any far-fetched hope that Chicago would complete a miraculous late-season turnaround and sneak into the playoffs as an NFC wild-card team. And while there's still a chance the Bears can finish 2019 above .500, the theme of this year will be disappointment.

There will be plenty of time to nitpick the 2019 Bears and identify what went wrong to derail a club with Super Bowl aspirations over the summer. For now, though, it's worth pointing out a positive development from Sunday's loss that advanced a recent trend of production in Chicago's passing game.

Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller each eclipsed 100 receiving yards against the Packers and continued to provide the Bears with a look at what could emerge as one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL next season.

Miller caught nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown while Robinson secured seven catches for 125 yards. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky targeted the duo a total of 29 times in the game.

"We are just trying to make plays," Robinson said Sunday after the game. "Anthony Miller is a very competitive dude. He makes plays when he gets his chance. So for me I am just trying to do the same thing; make plays and give our offense a shot to move the ball and score some touchdowns.”

Robinson's big afternoon brings his season totals to 83 catches, 1,023 yards and seven scores. It's the first time A-Rob has gone over 1,000 receiving yards since his breakout 1,400-yard season in 2015.

Miller, who was an afterthought in the passing offense for the first month of the season, now has career-highs in receptions (50) and yards (649). He's averaged 86 receiving yards per game over the last five weeks.

Trubisky's stat line has benefited quite a bit from Miller's recent surge, too. He's averaging 298 passing yards per game over the last four weeks, which spread across an entire season would total more than 4,700 yards.

It's OK to be frustrated with how 2019 turned out for the Bears. The season got off to an unbearably slow start and didn't come anywhere near the lofty expectations fans had when training camp broke. But it's become very clear over the last several games that the Bears have a strong foundation for an explosive passing game in place with Robinson and Miller.

The goal in 2020 should be to make sure the explosive duo is unleashed much sooner in the season.

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