Andy Phillips

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

Sometimes the kick just doesn’t go through the uprights.

But that’s likely not going to be a satisfying conclusion for seething Bears fans.

Connor Barth’s latest bout of inaccuracy was in too high-leverage a moment for anyone to excuse, the Bears’ kicker pushing a game-tying field-goal try wide, wide right in the waning seconds of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions.

The miss stung, no doubt about it, especially after Mitch Trubisky led the offense down the field on an impressive two-minute drill that featured the rookie quarterback converting a fourth and 13 with a weaving scramble that is sure to be on No. 10’s highlight reel for years to come. With the youngster putting his team in position to advance to overtime, it was up to the veteran leg — and the veteran leg missed. Bears lose.

Barth, to his credit, had the right attitude after the game, explaining that sometimes you just don’t make the kick. Not everyone can be Adam Vinatieri, right?

“I think I hit the ground a little bit and didn’t make good contact. Tough one,” Barth said. “You never want to miss. I’ve been a positive guy. This one kick’s not going to define me.

“It’s a team game. Everyone makes mistakes. Of course I want that one back, but at the end of the day, it happened. You move on. I’ll take it, it’s on me.”

But here’s the thing. This is far from the first time this has happened.

In his second season with the Bears, Barth has missed 10 field-goal tries in 26 games. He’s 11-for-16 so far in 2017 after going 18-for-23 a year ago.

Add to that the way in which Barth got the job in the first place — benefitting from the ouster of longtime kicker Robbie Gould — and a large number of fans have always seemed ready to run Barth out of town on a rail.

It’s important to note to those sharpening their pitchforks, however, that Gould matched a career worst with six missed kicks in 2015, his last year with the Bears. Since leaving the Bears, Gould has made 29 of his 31 field-goal attempts with the New York Giants (2016) and San Francisco 49ers (2017).

But fans pining for a return to those Gould-en days aren’t the only ones who have put the heat on Barth in recent weeks. Andy Phillips, a kicker the Bears had in training camp, sent out a eye-popping tweet after Barth missed a field-goal try in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

So now more than ever — with Barth’s his field-goal percentage dropping lower thanks to a critical missed kick — the question looms: Is this it for Barth in a Bears uniform?

Head coach John Fox didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of his kicker following Sunday’s defeat.

“It’s like everything. We are a production-based business. That’s what we get paid to do, whether it is winning games as a head coach or whether it’s making kicks as a kicker. We will evaluate it,” Fox said. “Like I said, every time we go out there, we will do everything we can to put the best team we can out there.”

Of course, it’s easy to rush to judgments when an athlete screws up with the game on the line. The situation magnifies the mistake, whether it be a closer blowing a save, a free-throw shooter coming up empty at the foul line or a kicker missing a potential game-tying field goal with eight seconds left on the clock.

But for Barth, the more worrying part of this whole thing is the trend. Ten missed kicks in 26 games.

Missing might be part of the job, and fans should understand that. But miss a lot, and there might be no more job at all.

“That’s just the way it is. I signed up for this,” Barth said. “You’re going to make some, going to miss some. That’s the way it goes.”

Bears appear to kick Andy Phillips out of competition with Connor Barth

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Bears appear to kick Andy Phillips out of competition with Connor Barth

Two days after special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers called him "more than just a camp leg," 28-year-old rookie Andy Phillips tweeted his thanks and appreciation to the Bears on Sunday night for the opportunity he gave them, signaling his departure in what was a two-man competition for the kicking job with incumbent Connor Barth.

The Bears had not officially announced the move at the time of Phillips' post. Phillips had some difficulty making kicks in Saturday's Family Fest scrimmage at Soldier Field during special teams drills, but did kick a field goal to cap the scrimmage, while Barth missed an extra point.

Phillips was an interesting story - a one-time Olympic downhill skiing hopeful whose best opportunity may have been blocked during a two-year Mormon mission in Norway during the 2010 Vancouver Games.

He never played organized football until walking on at Utah and eventually earning a scholarship, as well as well All-Pac 12 honors in all four seasons.

It's not known whether the Bears will bring in more competition for Barth.

Early look at 2017 Bears depth chart

Early look at 2017 Bears depth chart

After a 3-13 season, Bears GM Ryan Pace left no stone unturned trying to upgrade the franchise during this past offseason.

With an abundance new faces at several key positions, the Bears will head into training camp this summer with some key positional battles to keep an eye on.  

Here's an early look at the 2017 Bears depth chart in order of positional ranking:

OFFENSE

QB

Mike Glennon
Mark Sanchez
Mitch Trubisky
Connor Shaw

It would be shocking to see the Bears come out of the Soldier Field tunnel in Week 1 with anybody but Mike Glennon leading out the starters. Even after an impressive rookie minicamp, Mitch Trubisky is still a work in progress that the Bears coaching staff will need to handle with care if they want him to succeed in being the long-term quarterback of the future. Mark Sanchez's veteran presence gives him a leg up on Connor Shaw to make the final 53-man roster come September.

RB

Jordan Howard
Benny Cunningham
Jeremy Langford
Tarik Cohen
Ka'Deem Carey
Joel Bouagnon

Coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season, Howard is entrenched as the Bears' starter heading into the 2017 season. The Bears added a sorely needed speed dimension to the group with Darren Sproles clone in rookie running back Tarik Cohen. The Bears also brought in veteran Benny Cunningham who could unseat Jeremy Langford as Howard's backup. 

WR

Cameron Meredith
Kevin White
Markus Wheaton
Kendall Wright
Josh Bellamy
Deonte Thompson
Daniel Braverman
Rueben Randle
Tanner Gentry
Titus Davis
Jhajuan Seales

It won't be easy for the Bears to replace Alshon Jeffery's production, but Pace added depth to the group with the signings of Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. If Kevin White can bounce back from injury and show flashed of why he was a Top 10 pick in 2015, and either Wheaton or Wright emerges as a solid No. 3, the Bears could have a formidable group behind last year's breakout star Cameron Meredith.

TE

Zach Miller
Dion Sims
Adam Shaheen
Daniel Brown
Ben Braunecker
MyCole Pruitt
Franko House

The Bears got much stronger at tight end with the signing of Dion Sims and the selection of "Baby Gronk" Adam Shaheen in the second round of last month's draft. It will be a crowded group in Bourbonnais, and if Zach Miller can stay healthy, the Bears have the personnel that can cause major mismatches for opposing defenses. 

FB 

Freddie Stevenson

Undrafted free agent Freddie Stevenson is the lone wolf at fullback after Paul Lasike was waived. Stevenson served as the lead blocker for All-American running back Dalvin Cook. He had 292 total yards and seven touchdowns with the Seminoles.

RT

Bobby Massie
Tom Compton
Mitchell Kirsch

RG

Kyle Long
Cyril Richardson

C

Cody Whitehair
Hroniss Grasu
Taylor Boggs

LG

Josh Sitton
Eric Kush
Jordan Morgan

LT

Charles Leno Jr.
Bradley Sowell
William Pohels
Joseph Dieugot

If the Bears are fortunate enough to make it through preseason without any key injuries, they will go into Week 1 with all but one — Cody Whithair took over for Ted Larsen in Week 4 — of the same starters that they began 2016 with against the Houston Texans. The Bears have reliable backups in Eric Kush, who could play both guard positions, and veteran Tom Compton. The wildcard on the offensive line is third-year pro and former third-round pick Hroniss Grasu who missed all of 2016 with a torn ACL.

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DEFENSE

DE

Akiem Hicks
Jaye Howard
Mitch Unrein
Jonathan Bullard
C.J. Wilson
Kapron Lewis-Moore
Rashaad Coward

If free agent signing Jaye Howard can rebound from a hip flexor injury that cut his 2016 season short, the Bears could have lethal end duo in Howard and Akiem Hicks (7 sacks in 2016). The Bears also have quality depth in veteran Mitch Unrein and 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard.

DT

Eddie Goldman
John Jenkins

When healthy, Goldman has been a dominating presence on the interior of the Bears defensive line. If Goldman were to miss any time, the Bears have mammoth nose tackle John Jenkins (6-foot-3, 359 pounds), lurking in the background. 

OLB

Pernell McPhee
Leonard Floyd
Willie Young
Lamarr Houston
Sam Acho
Dan Skuta
Roy Robertson-Harris
Hendrick Ekpe
Isaiah Irving

Injuries aside, Leonard Floyd looked every bit the part of a Top 10 pick with seven sacks in his rookie season. Health questions remain, but the Bears have a deep stable of outside linebackers behind Floyd in Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. The final spot on the 53-man roster could come down to a three-way battle between veterans' Sam Acho and Dan Skuta, and second-year pro Roy Robertson-Harris.

ILB

Jerrell Freeman
Danny Trevathan
Nick Kwiatkoski
Christian Jones
Jonathan Anderson
John Timu
Alex Scearce

Jerrell Freeman, and his No. 1 Pro Football Focus grade, return to anchor the Bears' inside linebacker group. Danny Trevathan's ruptured patellar tendon could cause result in missing the start of training camp. If Trevathan misses any time during the regular season, he'll be replaced in the starting lineup by Nick Kwiatkoski who showed promise in his rookie season. Christian Jones has the edge for a roster spot over Jonathan Anderson and John Timu due to his ability to impact the game on special teams.

CB

Prince Amukamara
Marcus Cooper
​Cre'Von LeBlanc
Kyle Fuller
Bryce Callahan
Sherrick McManis
Johnthan Banks
Rashaad Reynolds
B.W. Webb

The Bears will likely have two new starting cornerbacks in 2017 with free agent acquisitions' Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. Both Cre'Von LeBlanc and Bryce Callahan showed growth in 2016 and could battle it out for the starting nickel corner job. Unless he has a big preseason, former Phil Emery first round pick Kyle Fuller could be the odd man out in the secondary.

FS

Adrian Amos
Eddie Jackson
Deiondre' Hall
DeAndre Houston-Carson

Adrian Amos took a step back in 2016 and will be challenged by fourth-round pick Eddie Jackson for the team's starting free safety position. One intriguing player to watch will be Deiondre' Hall, who is expected to make the switch to safety after playing cornerback during his four years at Northern Iowa and in his rookie season with the Bears.

SS

Quintin Demps
Harold Jones-Quartey
Chris Prosinski
Deon Bush

Free agent signing Quintin Demps will provide a dose of veteran leadership in the Bears secondary. Demps, who turns 32 later this summer, should serve as a stopgap until the Bears find a long-term solution at strong safety. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

Andy Phillips
Connor Barth

P

Pat O'Donnell

LS

Patrick Scales

Connor Barth recovered after a shaky start to his Bears career in 2016, but he'll be challenged in camp by undrafted free agent kicker Andy Phillips. A former member of the United States National Ski Team, Phillips converted 84 percent of field goals and missed just one extra point during his time at Utah. If he performs well in preseason, there's a good chance he'll dethrone Barth as the Bears starting kicker due to his age and contract status. As of now, neither Pat O'Donnell nor Patrick Scales have any roster competition to worry about.