As we continue with the unlikeliest (sneaky) most important Bears for the 2018 season, we move on to new kicker Cody Parkey. If you missed number 6 on backup running back and special teams ace Benny Cunningham, you can find that here.
It’s no secret that the Bears have struggled in the kicking game since John Fox was hired in 2015. In 2014, Robbie Gould inexplicably had the worst year of his career. After rebounding closer to his career averages in 2015, he was cut in favor of Fox favorite Connor Barth. In hindsight, this may have not been the best idea in the world. Not surprisingly, Gould has rebounded nicely with the San Francisco 49ers.
After Barth missed some key kicks in 2016, and again in 2017, he was eventually cut. Along the way, the Bears tried to either give him competition or replace him. Andy Phillips? Didn’t make it out of camp. Roberto Aguayo? Never played a game for the Bears. Cairo Santos? 1-for-2 in 2 games before ending up on injured reserve. Mike Nugent? Not bad, but definitely not good either.
In what was perhaps a slight overreaction to the kicking problem, general manager Ryan Pace threw a boatload of money to finally fix the problem. Parkey landed a 4-year, $15M contract this past off-season with $9M guaranteed. That’s big money for a kicker. If you look at his career, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t earned to be 5th highest paid kicker in the NFL for 2018. The pressure will be on Parkey to live up to that contract, especially following the debacle of the last 2 years.
But money isn’t the reason why Parkey is so important to the 2018 Bears, his ability to make kicks, however, is the reason. With a new-look offense—which has a plethora of new weapons—and a real commitment by the organization to improve offensively, the kicking game takes on a new importance.
It is generally easier to move the ball between the 20-yard lines than it is inside of them. With a first-year head coach, a second-year quarterback, an entirely new offense, 4 new starting skill position players, and a heap of questions, I would imagine that this offense struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone consistently, at least early on.
For the first part of the season and against some of the tougher defenses on the schedule, Parkey is going to be as important as anyone on the offense outside of Mitch Trubisky. Sure, you can make an argument about Jordan Howard or Trey Burton or Allen Robinson, but your kicker traditionally leads the team in scoring. It will be paramount that successful drives end in points and not great field position for the opponent, something that we saw way too much of recently.
With the Bears having a solid-to-good defense and a much improved offense (on paper), the special teams takes on a much more important role with the team. If both of the first 2 phases do their job the way they are supposed to, a good kicker can become a really good weapon for a team. Make no mistake about it, Parkey is a darn good kicker.
If Cody Parkey is the same player that he has been throughout his career, that is a major boost to the Bears offense. I mean, it can’t be any worse than last year, right......right?