With few holes to poke on Chicago’s roster, much of the coverage around Bears camp this spring and summer has revolved around the kicker competition. That discourse quieted this week after the Bears cut Elliott Fry, essentially ceding the starting kicker job to Eddy Pineiro for the time being.
But a Sports Illustrated story published Wednesday morning focused on the Bears’ handling of their booter battle ignited the conversation once again, with former Bears tryouts pinning blame on second-year coach Matt Nagy for Chicago’s drawn-out kicker woes.
Following the piece’s publication, Nagy defended how the club operated its kicker competition.
"I understand — we brought in a lot of kickers that came in here," Nagy told reporters Wednesday, per ESPN. "To me, I look at it as a positive, in the fact that we said we’re going to turn over every stone to find whoever’s out there. We felt like we, at that point in time, when we brought in a bunch of kickers, we’re going to test them all out and see what they can do.
"And then, within that time frame, we also put in some situations with the Augusta silence early on to see how they could handle it. Is it exactly the perfect science? I don’t know that, maybe not … I just really like how we’re going through this thing. (Bears general manager) Ryan (Pace) and I talk about no regrets, right?"
Among the issues outlined by kickers profiled by SI’s Kalyn Kahler were Nagy’s obsession with the 43-yard field goal (the distance of Cody Parkey’s double-doink miss), the use of an obscure scoring system to evaluate the kickers and the addition of kicker consultant Jamie Kohl to the staff.
"It’s not efficient for the team to continuously beat that one dead horse the whole time," Justin Yoon, one of nine kickers who worked out Chicago in rookie minicamp, told Kahler of the cult of the 43-yarder. "You have to build a system of confidence for your kicker. I don’t think that’s how the Bears are running it."
In regards to Kohl, some kickers said that the consultant showed bias in how he and the coaching staff whittled down the candidates. The final three booters Chicago was considering — Fry, Pineiro, Chris Blewitt — all had a prior relationship with Kohl.
"All of Jamie’s guys, they could have shanked the kick, and it was like, ‘Oh, you have really good rotation, your foot is wrapping around the ball,’" one kicker told SI. "I don’t think this situation will be solved or will be what the team needs to be until Jamie Kohl is gone. The way he very much tries to control a room, tries to be the alpha."
As of Wednesday, Chicago had just one kicker left on its roster — Pineiro — but that could change before the season’s start. The Bears reportedly sought out former Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik in a trade before Baltimore shipped him to Minnesota, and veterans like Dan Bailey could become available following roster cuts.
But for now, for the first time this summer, Nagy prefers that less attention is paid to Chicago’s kicker crisis.
"It’s really easy in Chicago as a head coach of the Chicago Bears, as a fan of the Chicago Bears, as the media (covering) 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."
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