Ranking five last-minute kicker options for the Bears: Why USWNT legend Carli Lloyd should get a tryout
The Bears have a problem at kicker, but an unconventional solution might've emerged
It might be somewhat melodramatic to apply a piece of dialogue from "Argo"-- an Academy Award winning movie about the real-life secret extraction of six U.S. diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis; in other words, stuff that actually matters -- to the Bears' kicker problem, but even if you've only paid the slightest amount of attention to the situation, you likely understand just how dire it is. The Bears have a Super Bowl-caliber roster. They're stacked at every position group -- except, of course, at kicker and maybe quarterback, .
Ever since the Bears held a wild and expansive competition between unknown options -- including a guy named Chris Blewitt. It . At rookie minicamp in May, Bears coach Matt Nagy had all eight (8!) of his kickers attempt a field goal from exactly 43 yards out -- the same distance as Parkey's miss. Only two of eight made their kicks.that would've sent the Bears to the divisional round of the playoffs, but instead sent them home for the winter, the Bears have been looking for a solution to a problem lacking clear and easy solutions. . They were , but a trade never materialized. Instead of signing a veteran,
Eventually, a victor emerged. Eddy Pineiro, , has won the job. After watching their realistic Super Bowl dreams die because their high-priced kicker couldn't make a field goal that kickers not named Cody Parkey made 86 percent of the time last season, the Bears are preparing to enter the season with a kicker who has never kicked a field goal of any length in the regular season. On the bright side, Pineiro went 3-for-3 in last year's preseason and as we all know, preseason success in a limited sample size is a great predictor of regular-season success over a longer period of time. Maybe Pineiro will end up becoming the savior the Bears have been searching for -- there's just know way for us to know at this point.
Even though the season opener is less than two weeks away, let's run through some last-minute options for the Bears if they're still not certain about Pineiro -- and why would they be? -- or if Pineiro struggles as the regular season nears or once the regular season begins. The cruel reality of the situation is that there aren't any clear and obvious solutions. There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one.
5. Nick Rose
The options available in free agency are lacking. The Bears trying to find a kicker in free agency at this point in the summer is like going to the grocery store the night before a long-awaited blizzard and wandering the barren aisles until being forced to settle for a can of olives and a jar of mayonnaise.
With that in mind, we begin our list with Nick Rose, who qualifies for the list because he's a free agent, he's not retired, and he plays kicker. Rose has experienced a meh level of success in his NFL career. In 2017, Rose made 11 of his 14 field goals with the Redskins and Chargers, which landed him with an underwhelming success rate of 78.6 percent.
Here's the rub: Despite being penciled in as the Jets' starter, . So, the Bears would need to convince him to come out of retirement and the Jets would have to be willing to let him go. But if that were to happen, Catanzaro would be among the Bears' best options. In his five-year career, he's made 83.8 percent of his field goals, which ranks 28th among all kickers who have played in at least 16 games in that same span.
Guess who ranks 27th ...
Cody Parkey, who by the way still remains the best free agent kicker -- despite what happened last year.
3. Kai Forbath
Since 2012, Forbath has drilled 85.7 percent of his field goals. In that span, among kickers with at least 16 games played, he ranks 18th in field goal percentage. He's a kicker. He's unsigned. He's not retired. And he's performed at an average-ish level for most of his career. For the Bears, that might be a tremendous upgrade.
2. Matt Bryant
The only two concerns here is that Bryant is 44 years old and he's spent most of his career kicking inside domes, having been the Falcons' kicker for the last decade. Kicking outside in Chicago is an entirely different beast. Otherwise, Bryant is the most obvious solution. His 86.2 field goal percentage ranks 11th since his career began in 2002 (minimum 16 games). In that span, only three kickers have made more field goals than Bryant.
1. Carli Lloyd
I'll be completely honest: Ranking five kickers that could potentially solve the Bears' problem at kicker was just an excuse to write this section. Including the four other kickers on this list was just a way for me to demonstrate how dire the situation is, which is why the Bears should seriously consider U.S. women's national team legend and Sky Blue FC midfielder/forward Carli Lloyd.
I think the Bears should give Lloyd a tryout and if all goes well, they should let her kick in a preseason game and if all goes well again, they should consider letting her kick in a game that matters. This isn't a joke. I think it could be the Bears' version of the fake Hollywood movie that Ben Affleck created. I think it could be their best bad idea ... by far.
Lloyd didn't materialize as a viable option until Tuesday whenshe did go up against Vince Wilfork in a kicking competition a few years ago, as documented on "Hard Knocks"). For those who don't know, soccer balls are not shaped like footballs.The field goal didn't necessarily come from an impressive distance, but the kick was impressive nonetheless given Lloyd's inexperience with kicking footballs (
Not long after, another video emerged. This time the distance was impressive. Lloyd was good from 55 yards.
"I started at 25 yards and I just kept moving back," Lloyd told Sports Illustrated's Planet Futbol TV. "I was aiming for (Jake) Elliott and (Justin) Tucker's 61-yarder record. I attempted a 57, had the length, but it didn't go in between the small goal posts."
As Tucker noted, the uprights were skinnier than the uprights used in regular NFL games. NFL uprights are 18.5 feet wide. The uprights Lloyd used were nine-feet wide.
"It was really impressive seeing her just knock down a 55-yarder like it was nothing," Tucker told the Ravens' team account. "Randy asked her, 'Hey do you need to get a little warmup or anything? She's like, 'Nah, I'll just ease into it.' She just started kicking balls. By the third or fourth one, they were all hitting three-quarters of the way up the net on the skinny uprights. Those uprights, by the way, they're nine-foot goals. They're half the size of these. So, it was pretty impressive."
That shouldn't come as a surprise. This is the same player who did this to a complete a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
Obviously, Lloyd wasn't kicking against a rush on Tuesday. She wasn't dealing with the pressure of kicking in a real game. Lloyd admitted she didn't expect any of this to blow up the way it did. But it's doubtful the pressure of the moment would be the thing that would derail Lloyd's hypothetical kicking career.
She's scored 114 goals for the USWNT -- including the game-winning, overtime goal against Brazil in the Gold Medal match at the 2008 Olympics, a brace in a 2-1 win over Japan in the Gold Medal match at the 2012 Olympics, and a hat-trick in the World Cup final against Japan in 2015. Only six women's soccer players have scored more goals on the international stage. Of those goals, at least 12 have come from the penalty spot, which is important because penalty kicks are somewhat comparable to field goals in the sense that the match completely stops and all pressure falls on the one person kicking the ball. For so much of her career, Lloyd was that person and for so much of her career, she converted from the spot.
So often, kicking in the NFL doesn't come down to skill or talent. Most NFL kickers are physically capable enough to hit nearly every field goal they attempt. Parkey didn't miss that 43-yarder because of any physical limitations. He probably missed it because of the pressure of the moment --. It's difficult to imagine Lloyd missing a kick because she couldn't handle the pressure.
She'd fail because she's never been a kicker before. She's not as skilled as other NFL kickers because she's never really practiced kicking a football before. But it's not as if Lloyd is incapable of learning how to kick a football. Look at what she did without any real training.
Former Raiders and Bengals kicker Jim Breech, who also happens to be the Bengals' all-time leading scorer, told CBS Sports that she looked capable enough for a team to give her a chance -- even if that team isn't necessarily the Bears.
"She looked pretty good to me. If she can do it in the 1.2-1.3 seconds it takes, why not?" Breech said in a text message. "Any team that already has a kicker that wouldn't take away from someone making the team ... give her a shot."
Former Pro Bowl kicker Martin Gramatica, who said he'd be open to training her, told TMZ that with a few alterations to her kicking technique, Lloyd could replace an active NFL kicker. Like Breech, Gramatica talked about how Lloyd needs to make sure her approach is short enough to work in the NFL when 11 defenders are trying to block the ball before it clears the trenches.
"She would have to alter her approach. It'd be a lot shorter -- a two-step approach," Gramatica said. "And obviously when you put the helmet and the pads on, it makes it a lot different. I know when I first started kicking, I hated the pads and the helmet. I felt so claustrophobic. It took me a while to get used to it. And then obviously the rush, when you have the rush. It's just impressive just to be able to get the ball 55 yards and straight, when you don't do it every day. I wouldn't put anything past her."
He continued, "If she put her mind to it and started training, I could see her going all the way. I'm glad I'm not an active kicker. I'd be worried right now."
It's not as insane as it sounds. Even Gil Brandt, a Hall of Fame talent evaluator, said the Bears should consider bringing her in for a tryout.
"Honestly, I don't think it will be long before we see a woman break through this NFL barrier," he wrote on Twitter. "I'd give her an honest tryout if I were, say, the Bears."
There's another issue here, and it's a big one. Lloyd, 37, isn't done with soccer. While she has indicated she's open to retirement in the near future, she hasn't retired yet. Lloyd plays for Sky Blue FC in the NWSL. The Olympics are next summer. The USWNT has friendlies scheduled over the next two months. It seems unlikely that Lloyd would be willing to cut her legendary soccer career short for football. It seems more likely that if Lloyd were to actually become an NFL kicker, it would happen when her career as a soccer player ends, which would also give her time to actually train for the job and add to her already awesome legend.
But that's out of the Bears' control. What's in their control is offering Lloyd a tryout. They have absolutely nothing to lose. They already brought in nearly every kicker on the planet without a job for a competition, so what's one more to them? If Pineiro gets rattled by Lloyd's tryout to the point where it negatively impacts him, is he really the best choice for a team searching for a kicker who can make pressure kicks? Is there any real downside to bringing Lloyd in for a tryout and if she fares well, letting her kick in a preseason game?
The Bears have tried to fix their kicking problem by seemingly exhausting every possible option available to them. Suddenly, one more possible option has materialized. It's now the Bears' responsibility to see if that possible option is better than the lackluster option they settled for after a lackluster competition.
Lloyd could always say no, but she hasn't said no yet.
"There's been some interesting chatter about it," Lloyd told Planet Futbol TV. "I think anything is possible. It's been really interesting because for me I'm just an athlete. I'm a competitor. But for so many other people, I think they're starting to think, 'Will there ever be a female in the NFL at some point?' I think we're kind of at that crossroads as far as equality and women empowerment. So, you're kind of in the crosshairs of that.
"I've definitely got some inquiries. I've definitely got some people talking. Anything is possible. But right now I'm strictly a soccer player. We'll see what the future holds."
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