The best position for an NFL team to be in with their kicker is to never have to think about him.
It seems like the Bears think about their kicker all the time.
On Sunday, the Eagles and Bears will meet for the first time since the Double Doink ended the Bears' 2018 season and firmly planted itself in Matt Nagy's frontal lobe. You remember the Double Doink; Cody Parkey's last-second field goal attempt in the wild card game was tipped by Treyvon Hester and then hit the left upright, the crossbar and bounced out. It devastated that city and it still seems like the team, especially Nagy, isn't quite over it.
Just as it started to look like the Bears had finally put their kicker issues in the past with Eddy Pineiro, last week he missed a 41-yard game-winner after Nagy took a knee instead of trying to pick up more yards. And then Pineiro admitted he didn't want the ball on the left hash. He missed wide left.
The Bears have bigger problems, but it seems like they've been fixated on the kicker.
"I'm kind of glad I don't have those types of issues right now where we can just kind of focus in on our team," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said this week.
Pederson's right. The Eagles haven't really had those issues. They've had Jake Elliott since 2017, when he came on the scene and delivered a franchise-long 61-yard game-winner in his second game with the team. The Eagles haven't looked back.
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Since he arrived, Elliott has made 61 of 71 attempts (85.9 percent), which ranks him eighth among kickers with at least 50 attempts (he's 8 for 8 in the playoffs). Elliott has six game-winners. He also owns two of the four longest regular season and playoff field goals in franchise history.
And this year, Elliott has been even better. He hasn't attempted many field goals, but he's 9 for 9, one of just four perfect kickers in the NFL. He finally missed his first PAT last week, but there were swirling 40mph wind gusts in Buffalo, so I told Elliott I'd give him a pass on that one.
"I appreciate that," he said, nodding.
The truth is that Elliott probably isn't one of the top kickers in the NFL, but he's good and he's pretty reliable and that's something the Bears wish they could have.
After Parkey's miss last year, Elliott was already sympathetic, but then things got even worse. Parkey went on the Today Show and Nagy seethed. Eventually, the Bears released Parkey and began a search for their next kicker.
That search was a wild one.
As documented in this MMQB story, the Bears brought in nine kickers for their initial rookie minicamp competition. Nine! That's completely unheard of. And then they made all their competitors kick in front of an audience from 43 yards out, the significance of which was not lost on anyone.
The whole thing seemed really bizarre.
"I saw some stuff in the media about it," Elliott said. "I didn't follow it all that closely, to be honest. I know there was a lot of guys in. I don't even remember who. I remember it came down to Eddy (Pineiro) and Elliott (Fry) and both of them are talented guys. I wouldn't be shocked to see Elliott back in the league soon. I know him decently. But, yeah, it was a crazy situation."
The crazy thing is that none of those nine kickers won the job. The Bears traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Pineiro the day after that minicamp ended. The competition was between Pineiro and Fry with the former coming out on top.
Once he won that job, he entered one of the highest-pressure jobs in the NFL.
"I think, obviously, there was a lot of hype around it in the offseason," Elliott said. "That's for better or for worse. At the end of the day, the guy won the job and that's awesome for him. He's been kicking well there. I know he had the one miscue last week, but he won the job. Yeah, it's a high-pressure situation, it's a high-pressure city, it's a high-pressure job. But you sign up for it."
Elliott is right. Things were going pretty well for Pineiro early. In fact, in Week 2, he made a game-winning 53-yard field goal to give the Bears a win over the Broncos and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
But last week, he missed two kicks, including the 41-yard try to win the game and prevent a three-game losing streak. Wide left.
So as we enter a rematch of the Double Doink game, the Eagles feel really comfortable with their kicking situation. Their kicker, holder and snapper have worked together for years and are in a rhythm. They won't have to think about it at all on Sunday.
The Bears still can't seem to get their kicker off their minds.
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