It’s been a topsy turvy road for Cody Parkey’s NFL career.
Just a few seasons ago, he broke the NFL rookie scoring record set by Kevin Butler in 1985 for an upstart Eagles team. Then a cringeworthy groin injury derailed him both physically and mentally in 2015. That led to not only lost confidence that would sit with him, but a release and later a second chance with the Cleveland Browns. The same Browns that new Bears’ special team coordinator Chris Tabor once coached for. After being broken down, Tabor’s flier on Parkey clearly resonated. While he wasn’t spectacular in 2016 with Cleveland, it was necessary for him to understand he could still kick professionally.
The Browns didn’t see him as the future, but his opportunity in Berea, Ohio led to a full circle comeback with the Dolphins in 2017, where Parkey made 21 of 23 kicks: seventh highest in football. Where he found his kicking touch from 2014 once more. And where coaches such as Tabor took note of the tremendous progress he had made since his release in Philadelphia.
Now, fresh off a handsome deal from the Bears and Tabor in free agency, Parkey is to entrench himself as a long term starter for an NFL team again. The Bears, who hope to contend and compete immediately, see Parkey as a valued piece based on his contract and as someone who can finally help them get over their struggles following Robbie Gould.
1. First and foremost: what is Parkey’s state of mind right now in terms of confidence? This is a player that once struggled with composure after a disastrous injury and we know crazy things happen to kickers once they lose their head.
Parkey was really good for the Dolphins last year. I was actually surprised they let him hit free agency. He had a career-high 91.3 percent conversion rate on his field goal attempts. He did miss three extra points, which was a little frustrating, but he was a good kicker all season and I thought Miami would look to keep him. His head seems fine, and I wouldn’t worry about it.
2. What are Parkey’s strengths as a kicker? Does he have the necessary leg? Where do his struggles lie in reliability, if any?
He was plenty reliable for the Dolphins, both on field goals and kickoffs. His leg showed no signs of wear and tear throughout the season and he tied the team’s all-time season field goal percentage with that 91.3 percent rate. He is also ridiculously good on onside kicks, with Miami recovering four of them on the year. That could be huge in comeback attempts, if necessary.
3. How did Parkey rebound in Miami after a down few years in Philadelphia and Cleveland last season? Was it as simple as having his mojo back?
I think it really was. He was healthy and he played well. My feeling on Parkey is that he’s a fine kicker. I’ll say it again: I was surprised the Dolphins allowed him to leave in free agency, because I thought they had a kicker they could keep for a few years and be comfortable with. He was not someone who would jump off the paper as an amazing kicker, but he was solid. Ultimately, he wasn’t someone you were overly worried about when he was asked to make a kick. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.
4. Parkey is relatively young. Was there any particular reason as to why the Dolphins elected to let him go? As far as use, he only had 23 field goal attempts: was that more about a limited offense, a lack of trust in Parkey, both, or something unmentioned?
For whatever reason, Miami likely feels they can upgrade the position. He was not someone who seemed to be a required upgrade this year, but that has to be the only explanation for him no longer wearing aqua on Sundays. He was not used much because Jay Cutler was the quarterback. That should much sum up the entire situation. Miami did not move the ball and score points consistently enough this year. Perhaps that can be remedied in a new environment.
5. Are there any moments that stick out to you about Parkey’s lone season with the Dolphins?
The onside kicks are an obvious one. It’s not often you see even the greatest kickers enjoy that kind of success on such a bang-bang play. His first game with the Dolphins also comes to mind, when he kicked a 54-yard field goal to beat the Chargers in the closing seconds.
6. Is Parkey a kicker that a contender can win a title with? How is he in pressure situations?
I don’t see why not. He has never shown any reason to believe he will shy away from crunch time. He’s a solid kicker who can hold on to the job for several years in Chicago. He is not someone who is a must-have type of kicker, but having him won’t hurt the team in any shape or form.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago.