It's hard to remember now, but as late as the 3rd quarter of Week 7, this season was shaping up to be Robbie Gould's greatest.
Robbie Gould is 16 of 16 on FGs this season, his best start since hitting his first 24 in 2006, his All Pro season. pic.twitter.com/yPAgCieZ9H— Jack M Silverstein (@readjack) November 1, 2015
He made his first 16 kicks, including a game-winner in Week 4 to give the Bears their first win of the season, plus two more in Week 5 in a game they won by one. One of those kicks made him the team's all-time leading scorer.
He hit all four of his field goals in Week 6 in a three-point loss to the Lions, and made his first two against Minnesota the following week before missing a 51-yarder with just under 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Bears clutching a 13-10 lead.
They would lose by three.
That miss set off a different kind of season for Gould, one in which fan trust has plummeted. Gould's two misses in the win against San Diego this year were positively startling:
Wait, Gould missed a FG? What the crap?— Dane Noble (@WindyCGridiron) November 10, 2015
Great back shoulder throw by Cutler to Jeffery, but just missed it by an inch. AND GOULD MISSED 2ND FIELD GOAL WTF— Dane Noble (@WindyCGridiron) November 10, 2015
If WCG did a weekly "Robbie Gould Approval Rating" post like we do for John Fox, I have to imagine Robbie's would be lower than his current field goal percentage, which at 81.3% beats out only his rookie year and last year's nightmare.
In fact, if you split Gould's kicks in half right now, his season looks like this:
First 16 kicks: 16-16, 100%, including a game-winner
Next 16 kicks: 10-16, 62.5%, including a missed game-winner
Gould, of course, has missed kicks before. All kickers have. What stands out about this season is that for the first time ever, he is missing kicks that MATTER, and without any kind of contextual excuse.
Gould has missed 47 kicks in his career, but none like his last two. Twice he's missed kicks in overtime only to be redeemed, once on his own kick and once on a Jay Cutler touchdown. He's had three other games where he missed a kick that may or may not have made the difference, but then hit a game-winner anyway, one game where he missed a kick that would have been crucial but didn't necessarily lead directly to a loss, and two games where he missed a kick in the fourth quarter that could have been enormous had other circumstances differed.
And of course he had the miss in the 2013 vs. Minnesota where Trestman lined Robbie up for a 47-yard field goal on 2nd and 7 in overtime. General consensus chalks that one up to Trestman...
...but it's hard to chalk these past two misses to anyone but Robbie -- one kick that would have won in regulation, leading to an overtime loss, and one kick that would have tied in regulation, leading to a regulation loss.
That final miss vs. the Washington Breadsticks (thanks Aziz!) combined with the two the week before gave Robbie a dubious pair of personal achievements, one of which I summed up in this tweet:
Robbie Gould, 2 missed field goals in a game: 2005-2014: twice 2015: twice (same game -- first in his career) pic.twitter.com/Emby3h14h4— Jack M Silverstein (@readjack) December 6, 2015
Here's the other:
3 straight missed FGs, 2005-2014: once
3 straight missed FGs, 2015: twice
We've had some interesting breakdowns of Robbie Gould at WCG this season. In October, I explored the question of a team honoring a kicker as its captain, Gould's passing of Kevin Butler as the team's all-time leading scorer led to discussion about his greatness, and two months later Josh Sunderbruch wrote this gem called "What Robbie Gould teaches us about the NFL."
So the question for Bears fans is this: When you look at Robbie, what do you see? The franchise's all-time leading scorer who is still the NFL's 9th most accurate kicker all-time and who started 16 for 16?
Or the guy who has missed 6 of his last 16 including a would-be game-winner and another that became a defacto game-loser?
In other words, has he lost your confidence? And what must he do to regain it?
After every missed kick, Robbie Gould's comments boil down to two sentiments:
1. "I just missed it."
2. "I just want another chance."
That first one, "I just missed it," is all about the past. Nothing you can do there. For the sake of an all-time great Chicago Bear, I hope that his teammates and fans can give him #2.