Bears bold prediction: You'll miss Cody Parkey this year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The summer before my freshman year of high school, my parents gave me the best news a 14-year old could possibly get: they were going to let me get a new backpack.
Not only that, but they were going to let me choose. Can you even imagine?! I could hardly contain my excitement as I searched the internet far and wide for a bag that could instantly cement my social status and get me invited to all the upperclassmen parties – at least the ones that were chaperoned and wrapped up by 11. It didn't take long for me to find what I wanted; the decision was easy. Fast forward 7-9 business days, and there it was, at my door: one brand new, jet-black laptop bag, ready to be slung over my shoulder at a moment's notice. To be clear, I didn't own a laptop at the time – but why have two normal straps when you can have one big one?
Thing is, high school kids don't wear laptop bags. What they will do, as I learned, is make fun of those who do! Endlessly. By Wednesday I was begging my dad to let me use his gym bag instead, and by Friday I was the kid with the rank backpack, not the weird hip satchel. Sometimes even the most concrete convictions are just waiting to crack.
I'm not sure there's one specific word that entirely sums up the Bears' kicking situation. It's probably more like five words, in a very specific order, that create a catchy acronym. Eddy Piñeiro was supposed to come into 2020 bulked up and ready to tighten his grip on the job. Instead, a lingering groin injury kept him on the sideline for all of training camp. It'll cost him the first three weeks of the season, too; being placed on IR means he can't return until, at the earliest, the Bears' game against Indianapolis on October 4th.
Enter Cairo Santos, who you may remember as the other kicker to lose his job in Chicago because of a groin injury (though this isn't entirely fair to Piñeiro, whose job is presumably still safe). Last year, Santos hit 44% of his kicks (4-9) in five games with Tennessee. Before that, he hit 77% of his kicks while splitting time between the LA Rams and Tampa Bay. Piñeiro will be the first to tell you that his 2019 season – one where he hit 82% of his field goals – didn't go as well as he would have liked. It's been four years since Santos had a season better than that, and he's only done it twice.
Which brings us back to Cody Parkey. His career field goal percentage sits a hair over 84%, and he's the only one of the group that's ever finished a season above 90% (2017). Parkey's 8-10 from 50+ yards while Santos is 8-17. Because fair is fair, Santos (74%) has Parkey (71%) in the 40-49 range, though Football Reference doesn't say who has the upper hand from 43.
The Bears didn't cut Cody Parkey because he had the worst year of his career in Chicago. The Bears didn't even cut Parkey because he hit the post, and then another post, as time expired in the 2018 NFC Wild Card game (though that certainly didn't help). Showing up on the Today Show, unbeknownst to the Bears, a few days later was the final straw. Matt Nagy "didn't necessarily think that that was too much of a we thing," and the Bears "always talk about a 'we-not-me thing.'" Parkey's season was bad, and his Wild Card (an important distinction) miss was worse – but does it become even half as infamous if it only hits one bar? Or if Cris Collinsworth hadn't been on the ball with alliteration?
Since then the Bears have tried out Chris Blewitt, Casey Bednarski, Redford Jones, Elliot Fry, Emmit Carpenter, John Baron, Spencer Evans, Justin Yoon, and Alex Kjellsten. They settled on Piñeiro, whose strong start faded as quickly as Nagy's trust in him did. Now that he's out for the first 1/4th of the season, Nagy and co. are relying on their third kicker in three years to hold things together. Maybe *you* don't miss Cody Parkey, but it's starting to look more and more like the Bears might.