It still feels like yesterday that former Bears kicker Cody Parkey followed up his infamous “double-doink” in the playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles by appearing only a few days later on the “Today” Show to discuss it.
Of course, if that 43-yarder, which hit the left upright then the cross bar before falling short and preventing the Bears from advancing to the divisional round, didn’t prevent Parkey from advancing to Year 2 with the Bears, it was his ill-fated television decision.
It’s no wonder, then, Bears head coach Matt Nagy has said repeatedly over the subsequent seven months since Parkey’s release that the coach and everyone else associated with choosing Parkey’s replacement in the NFL’s most discussed kicking competition ever are not only paying attention to the challengers’ results but their response after each attempt — successful or not.
“These guys can probably use a little bit [of success],” Nagy explained Monday, two days after Eddy Pineiro converted 5 of 5 overall kicks — including a 58-yard FG conversion — in his first solo game audition following Elliott Fry’s ouster last week.
“There’s been such a microscope on them, and that’s OK. To me, the beauty in coaching is making sure you have a pulse on your players. … Like you just said, how are you gonna handle when you do well? But how cool was it to see the team react the way they reacted to him making that? To see Eddy react the way he reacted? He knew it was a big kick.”
Pineiro’s swag level, he and several others Bears have already confirmed, is extremely high by kickers standards — and there was no mistaking the jubilation the 23-year-old felt after his biggest kick as a Bear, as well as the warm reception it earned him from his teammates.
But Pineiro knows as well as anyone that the feelings of jubilation can be almost immediately replaced by his jettisoning if he doesn’t build on that success. Still, that’s isn’t the reason the Bears opted not to give him another shot at connecting on a bomb, from 57 yards, later Saturday evening.
Nagy explained that the Bears opted to go for it on fourth-and-short rather than line up Pineiro again because the attempt would have fell a bit outside of the range the coach and special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor discussed prior to the game and again after intermission.
“We as coaches, we need to stay disciplined,” Nagy said. “There’s a reason why we said that number, there’s a reason he’s telling us that number, so we stuck to that.”
It’ll be at least a few more days before we know whether the Bears stick with Pineiro to begin the season. A number of kickers with the NFL experience he lacks will be entering waivers or the open market by Saturday, and remember it’s not until after Week 4, when Pineiro would have to remain on the roster, that the conditional seventh-rounder Chicago sent to Oakland to acquire him kicks in. He now finds himself the favorite to replace Parkey, but the team’s evaluation is ongoing.
“Now he gets more opportunities this week, hopefully,” Nagy said.