Bears coach Nagy defends lengthy process to find kicker

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy watches from the sidelines during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J.

    Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy watches from the sidelines during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J.

 
By Arthur Arkush
arthurarkush@profootballweekly
Updated 8/22/2019 12:02 AM

The Bears have repeatedly stated throughout the offseason that every kick counts in the NFL's most discussed kicking competition, maybe ever.

Still, Bears coach Matt Nagy attempted to add key context and perspective on the team's process of identifying Cody Parkey's replacement on Wednesday, the same day an unflattering Sports Illustrated article on the issue dropped and became the topic du jour at his pre-practice news conference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Remember what I told you before: it's really easy in Chicago as a head coach of the Chicago Bears, as a fan of the Chicago Bears, as a media of 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."

Where the Bears were at in the spring -- auditioning eight kickers, none of whom remain on the roster following Elliott Fry's release Sunday, but were quoted on and off the record in the aforementioned piece thoroughly describing the competition they lost as somewhere between counterproductive and biased -- and now with Eddy Pineiro (for the moment) as the last man standing aren't exactly the same.

For starters, Pineiro wasn't here in April, a month before the Bears acquired him via trade from the Oakland Raiders for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick. But Nagy said the fact that none of the guys who were here stuck is more a testament to the guys who lasted the longest.

"It's a compliment to Elliot and Eddy, coming in here. 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. ... 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?"

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Nagy admitted Tuesday that his plan in the spring was to get on the guys a bit more, for instance, with the unrelenting reminders of Parkey's double-doink, than he has in the summer, but he doesn't want Pineiro looking backward and trying to move forward simultaneously.

"That's not really the case with him, and I think we talk about that even when Elliott was here was I really don't believe there's a kicker out there that never misses in practice and in the games," Nagy said. "It's how you respond to it. So yesterday he was, I think, seven for eight, and after his miss he came back and made it. And it's in practice. It's not a game. But there's a lot of evidence out there with a lot of different kickers in history -- I'm not talking about the last two of three years, I'm talking about in history -- that have come out and struggled early on and been Hall of Fame kickers and Pro Bowl kickers currently. So we keep that in mind."

Nagy stopped short earlier this week of declaring that Pineiro would be the Bears kicker in Week 1, candidly pointing to the fact that the Bears could very well find an upgrade when the NFL's annual roster churn from 90 to 53 occurs in less than two weeks. But, in the same way that Nagy and GM Ryan Pace are maintaining a "no regrets" approach in their exhaustive search for Parkey's replacement, the head coach is encouraging Pineiro to see the forest through the trees and not let the weight of any one missed kick hold him back.

"What Eddy's doing -- what I'm sensing and we have conversations -- it's understanding that it is a process, and it is important for whoever the kicker is, on any team, in my opinion, to feel like you're not out there kicking for your job on every kick," he said. "I have his back. And confidence is big for any position. I don't want Eddy thinking that every missed kick, 'uh oh, they're looking for somebody else, etc.' Just go out there, just kick."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So although the Bears' approach this spring was nothing if not unusual, it's seemingly been replaced recently by a situation with at least a semblance of something closer to normal.

Not that it matters much to Pineiro.

"Honestly, it doesn't change anything," he said Sunday. "Still gotta make kicks. If I don't make kicks, I'm gonna be gone like everybody else."

• Arthur Arkush is the managing editor for Pro Football Weekly. For more on the NFL, visit profootballweekly.com and follow Arthur on Twitter

@arthurarkush or @PFWeekly.

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