By: Kyle Smith
CHICAGO — When the officials blew the final whistle on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, the 34-22 final score over the Detroit Lions made Bears fans head to social media because of one player’s performance:
PK Cody Parkey.
Faithful of the orange and blue made their way to Twitter to mouth unkind words to the guy who tried his hardest to be successful on his field goals and extra points, with some of these Bears fans being just plain harsh.
True, the Bears kicker missed four kicks, including two extra points, but it’s important to point out that all four of these attempts hit the field goal posts. For all of the Chicago football fans who subscribe to the glass half-full mindset, this means that Parkey was four times a quarter of an inch from going perfect on the day. Then again, for all of the negative Ned/Nancy fans of the team who still leads the NFC North, he was a quarter of an inch from going wide right or wide left all afternoon long.
Optimists and pessimists aside of the Cody Parkey conundrum, head coach Matt Nagy quickly forced reporters to retreat when they asked about the possibility of having the Bears quickly and forcingly replace his field-goal booter.
“There’s zero chance of that,” said Nagy.
Look, what else is Nagy going to say? That his team should have pulverized the Lions today and that the only reason the score was fairly close because of lackluster placekicker play?
First of all, former Pro Bowler Mason Crosby missed five kicks earlier this year versus the Lions, and second of all, it’s not like Parkey wasn’t even close on his kicks.
Oh yeah, and Crosby ended up winning Special Teams Player of the Week honors one week after his disastrous performance against Detroit.
The point being is that Parkey could recover from this unmemorable performance with a picture perfect one on Sunday Night Football against Minnesota. After all, he somehow almost made all four of those kicks on field goal posts that are four inches in diameter from each other.
Then again, he could just as easily continue to struggle like Daniel Carson and Zane Gonzalez did, forcing the Vikings and Browns to immediately terminate their employments.
What might be angering Bears fans, in addition to the missed kicks, are his post-game comments:
“I don’t think I’ve hit the posts four times in my whole life, and I’ve been kicking for almost 15 years. So, it’s almost comical,” Parkey said after the 12-point win. For any average Joe Bears fan, missing kicks is no “comical” or laughing matter.
But after trying to bring some comic relief to an otherwise tough situation as he continued to deal with the press, Parkey also made some professional comments by stating, “I was just playing the ball down the middle today, and every time I kicked it down the middle, it kept fading to the right. The wind was pushing it a little on me. But I have to be better than that. That’s why I’m here.”
So what should the Bears do from here? Well, it is not so easy of a decision. Firstly, Parkey hasn’t exactly been Zane Gonzaelz-esque terrible in 2018, although his 5-of-8 successful field goals from less than 50 yards out this season is anything but impressive.
However, if the Bears cut him before the 2018 season ends, the team loses $9 million in dead cap money. Actually, the Bears still lose over $5 million in dead cap even if they cut him prior to June 1, 2019.
Parkey is currently in the first year of his four-year deal that he signed last March. His contract includes $2.75 fully guaranteed money for next season, which all-together is $9 million guaranteed dollars.
In short, it’s hard to financially get rid of a kicker who was so close to hitting on those two extra point and two field-goal attempts.
Also, it’s not as if the next great kicker is just waiting on the streets for a new team. The Bears lucked out when Robbie Gould was an unrestricted free agent all those years ago, but for every Robbie Gould, there’s a Connor Barth “waiting in the wings.”
Any average Bears fan will tell you that the Connor Barth experiment didn’t exactly work out, and although Cairo Santos has history with Nagy during their short tenure together in Kansas City, nothing is a sure thing when it comes to signing kickers in the middle of the season.
Santos has a good sample size of success in the NFL, but he’s no Dan Bailey. The Vikings “lucked out” when Carson turned out to not be the answer at the kicking position, but the Parkey vs. Santos discussion is hardly in the same zip code as Carson vs. Bailey.
Here are the facts: It costs a lot to cut Parkey, he hasn’t exactly been extremely bad for most of the season, and there’s no foretelling that the Auburn alumnus kicker will continue missing extra points against the Vikings.
Remember when Crosby missed five kicks earlier this year against the Lions? Well, he also struggled mightily during the 2012 season, missing 12 kicks of his 33 total attempts. Did head coach Mike McCarthy and the Packers quickly move on from their veteran kicker? Absolutely not.
Cody Parkey is not Mason Crosby, but it’s too soon to say if he’s in Blair Walsh territory in terms of blowing big kicks in big games.
My consensus? Slow down the “We must fire Parkey immediately!” Twitter stance, Bears fans.