The Bears Release Robbie Gould

In a somewhat surprising move, the Chicago Bears have parted ways with their longtime kicker, Robbie Gould. The move comes less than a week before the start of the season. Gould was Chicago’s all time leading scorer with 1207 points and was the most accurate kicker in franchise history. He had been with the team since 2005, and currently ranks ninth all time in career field goal accuracy percentage at 85.449%. <pfref>

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Robbie Gould is the Bears all time Leading Scorer

 

Gould hit on 33 of 39 field goals last year, good for an accuracy percentage of 84.6%, ranked 19th in the league. But he had crucial misses in back to back weeks: In week 13, Gould had ugly misses of 40 and 36 yards, the latter of which would have won the game. Then, in week 14, Gould missed a game-tyer late from 51 (career long is 58). The Bears went on to lose both games. They finished the season 6-10. That’s a potential extra two wins cost because of your kicker. Coaches have very little patience for that stuff.

Gould also appeared to be getting progressively worse on his kickoffs. According to teamrankings.com, his 46.99 touchback percentage ranked 27th in the league. And according to footballdb.com, his average kickoff distance of 60.3 yards ranked dead last. (Although, Bleacher Report’s Kicker Rankings have him at 63.4 yards, so not positive what the correct number is there.) This was a kicker once known for his strong leg; although to be fair, leg strength on field goals doesn’t always translate to kickoffs, and vice versa. Gould did, however, try to increase his weight over the offseason, which I can’t imagine would be for any reason other than adding strength.

The fall for kickers is often swift and unforgiving. Billy Cundiff used to be a pro bowl kicker for the Ravens. He was never anywhere near as good as their current kicker, Justin Tucker, but he hit on 26/29 (89.7%) in 2010, good for sixth in the league. He also led the league with a ridiculous 40 touchbacks in 2010, back when kickoffs were still from the 30 yard line. That was a record for kickoffs after the instatement of the K-ball rule. The Ravens signed him to a long term extension after the 2010 season.

We all know where this is going. In the 2011 AFC Championship game, Cundiff missed a 32 yard chip shot to send the game to overtime in Foxborough with 15 seconds left, and the Patriots went on to lose to the Giants in the Superbowl (hehe). He was released before next season started.

I feel bad for Cundiff, as I don’t really entirely blame him for missing the kick. Never talked about is the fact that the scoreboard at Foxborough was actually behind a down, causing Cundiff to think it was only 3rd down when it was actually 4th. This caused Cundiff to be late coming onto the field, as the replay shows him running to get to the play with the clock at 15 seconds and counting. As a result, he likely rushed the kick, causing him to over-rotate his hips and miss wide left. Kickers are creatures of routine like no other. Any time that routine is off, chaos can ensue.

Ultimately though, none of this mattered. The NFL is a results oriented business. Cundiff was cut. He kicked here and there for the Redskins and Browns, but never kicked higher than 80 percent in a season after the Ravens cut him. He’s currently unsigned.

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Billy Cundiff misses a chip shot to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2011

 

Blair Walsh also had a big time miss in the playoffs that wasn’t necessarily his fault. Walsh missed a go ahead 27 yarder with 26 seconds left in the game in last year’s divisional round vs Seattle. But the punter, Jeff Locke, gave Walsh the laces for the second time that day. Who knows whether this truly affected that specific kick or not, but anyone who’s seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective knows that giving the kicker the laces is a no-no. The Vikings chose to stick with their young kicker, but a few weeks ago in the preseason at Seattle, he missed a longer kick with almost the exact same trajectory. It’s just one kick, but the jury is still out as to whether Walsh will bounce back or not.

Bouncing back as a kicker is tough. The position is so mental. Josh Scobee played ten years with the Jaguars, but he was released in 2014. He was also released by the Steelers last year after going just 6/10, and missing two late kicks against Baltimore that could have put the game away. He was injured last year, but again, it’s results that matter in this business.

Good kickers are around for so long, due to the non-contact nature of the position, that they often become part of the identity of the team, as well as some of the more well known faces of the league. Adam Vinatieri, currently the oldest player in the NFL, has been playing in the league since 1996. That’s absolutely ancient for this league. He’s older than the Giants new coach, for crying out loud! Gould has been around for a while and has been one of the better kickers in the league. I feel bad for Gould. It would have been nice to see him retire a Bear. Apparently, he struggled during the preseason. And like I said, he wasn’t great last year. I know it’s a brutal business, but the Bears could have at least given him a chance to rebound. If they were worried about money, they could have asked him to take a pay cut. That’s what the Packers did with Mason Crosby after his horrendous 2012 season in which he hit just 21 of 33 for 63.6%. I was surprised when they didn’t cut him, but he bounced back nicely and has been above 81% every season since. I believe he was just extended.

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Adam Vinatieri in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 against Brett Favre’s Packers (Left). Vinatieri, now a Colt (Right), continues to be one of the best kickers in the NFL today.

 

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Phil Dawson, 41, after a successful career with the Browns, continues to be an asset with the 49ers.

 

Do kickers ever find life on new teams after such long tenures with their first team? David Akers, after 11 years with the Eagles, had a great season with the 49ers in 2011, but struggled in 2012 and was cut after the season ended. He is now retired. Phil Dawson, one of the best kickers in the league, was released after 13 years with the Browns and is now in his 4th season with the 49ers. He is still going strong. (The Niners did, however, take him off kickoff duty, just like the Colts did with Vinatieri in 2009.) Olindo Mare stands out as similar to the Gould situation because, although he, unlike Gould, bounced around teams for a lot of his career, Mare missed some late crucial field goals in 2011 for the 6-10 Panthers, and was cut the year after. (Unlike Gould, Mare was a great kickoff man that year.) The Panthers replaced Mare with Graham Gano, a guy who’s had a really nice turnaround in Carolina after a few terrible seasons in Washington. Gano’s different however because he was still young when he went to Carolina and hadn’t been with Washington for that long. He also made some really noticeable mechanical changes after coming to Carolina; he looks like a different kicker. Gould doesn’t struggle mechanically. He’s always been a really smooth and easy kicker. He just needs to make the kicks. And Gould is 34 years old. Even though like I said, age isn’t as much as an issue for kickers in terms of the body wearing down, it’s still the case that when older kickers start to falter, it usually tends to be pretty final. Kicking is just a position that’s so mental, and a position where there’s just not a lot of tolerance for error.

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Robbie Gould had a great ten years with the Bears. I wish him all the best. If the Giants do end up getting rid of Josh Brown because of the recent domestic abuse incidents that are starting to come to light, I would be happy to give Gould a shot in Blue.

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Bears-Giants Thoughts

This was the first Giants game that I actually watched most of, seeing as I’m on fall “break” (which means I have Thursday and Friday off, really not sure that constitutes a “break”) and seeing as this game was on Thursday, I did not have to worry about homework lurking in the background. In addition, the live streams on my computer are slightly more watchable when the feed is from NFL Network for some reason. Still miss having my own TV and not being surrounded by Saints fans, but I digress…

Nice being able to relax and watch a whole game without worrying about homework. At 0-5 (0-6 now), the Giants have been a complete embarrassment and have left fans such as myself utterly depressed, confused, and empty inside. I’m not really in my best state on sunday as I usually wake up very late and out of it after a completely inactive saturday and am half-watching the games on my computer and dorm TVs while simultaneously thinking about all the homework I have and haven’t done and should have done yesterday and when I’m going to do it while simultaneously trying (and failing) to motivate myself to take a shower. Being in this state, flipping on the game on my computer on these sundays and seeing the Giants (in full 8 bit resolution) self destruct with horrible play after another while at the same time the cruel, painful, and unnecessary jeers from the Saints and Patriots fans on my floor (you know who you are) get louder and louder like a knife stabbing my chest, does not bode well for my persona.

Maybe that was all a little dramatic, but the point is it has not been a happy football season for the freshman in college Giants fan. The stress of sunday mixed in with the complete sucking of the Giants is not a great combination.

Well, tonight it was nice to relax and be able to watch almost the whole game without having to be stressed about other stuff, AND it was nice to have the Giants put up somewhat of a fight.

I guess there are some positives to tonight’s game, and I guess I should start with those. We went on the road and played a good football team and played pretty well for most of the night. Like I said, I haven’t seen most of the previous games so I can’t say for sure what those games were like, but I got the sense that for the most part we played better tonight than we had previously this season. Sure they made some plays and there definitely were some times where we got lucky (Jay Cutler misfired on a couple sure TD’s) but for the most part our defense, for what it is played ok, or at least better than it has in the past and in previous seasons. I don’t expect them to be a great defense, they’re just not. Tonight, it was clear that Brandon Marshall is just bigger than our DB’s, he matched up well. Would have been nice if we doubled him not sure why we didn’t, but nonetheless our D they kept the game manageable, which is a step in the right direction. As for our offense, I really wasn’t a fan of bringing back an old Brandon Jacobs initially. However, we need a run game–we can’t just throw it all the time like we’ve been doing, it’s not a good strategy, Eli this year just isn’t good enough, neither are our WRs–and if Jacobs can deliver then why not. It’s clear Coughlin trusts him more than David Wilson. A lot of his nice runs were at wide open holes, it’s not like he was breaking a ton of tackles, but he’s running hard and reading his blocks correctly. He seems to be playing with more effort than he did when we got rid of him. Small sample size, obviously. But we need a run game and we need to keep being patient with the run and keep handing off. I know that’s hard when you’re behind, but play calling has been too heavily tilted toward the pass when it doesn’t need to be and those pass plays have not been creative at all. It’s a lot easier to make mistakes when you’re throwing and with all the tipped balls, misreads by WR, inaccurate throws, or all the other things that have led to interceptions from these short passes, we’re just not a team that can be efficient with the short passing game to pick up yards. We never have been, but we especially can’t with this year’s personnel. So enough with all this empty backfield and all the slants we’ve been running in previous games. I liked our commitment to the run today. Whether the production from it will hold up, we will see.

And we gave ourself a chance at the end, which is what I was surprised to see. I felt good for most of the game, there were plenty of times where we could have let it get out of hand but we didn’t. So that’s the good stuff. But honestly, at the end of the day, that ending just kills you, and that’s what’s going to–and should, for the most part–define this game. This is what bad teams do, they blow it at the end. It was a good looking drive and a play that could have worked, but Eli has been high and inaccurate with his throws for a lot of the year. A throw just out of reach of Brandon Myers–who is smaller than Martellus Bennett, why did we get rid of him by the way? That play can’t happen, obviously. The disappointing (to say the least) season continues. 0-6, at this point we can DEFINITELY say (if we couldn’t before) that the Giants season is over.

What about the Bears? Watching them under the command of Marc Trestman was interesting. Jay Cutler disappointed me last year. I was a fan of him, and everyone expected him to … I hate to say this because it’s getting so cliche … “take the next step” as the media would say, due to the acquisition of his BFF Brandon Marshall and his former QB Coach from Denver Jeremy Bates. Instead, he did not have a good season. Most people wanted to blame it entirely on the offensive line (as usual), but last year was a clear regression. Not counting his nightmare 2009 season (his first year in Chicago with 26 INTs), in 2012 we saw Jay’s lowest Y/A and lowest passer rating since his rookie year. Despite playing 15 games, he barely surpassed 3000 yards. He’s never been a guy with great stats, but I was not seeing the impressive throws that I was used to seeing from him. So when the media started asking if Marc Trestman could “fix” Jay Cutler, I was highly skeptical. If 2012 was supposed to be “the year” and he had Jeremy Bates and Brandon Marshall and he couldn’t do it with them, why would we ever see it?

Well I can’t speak for the season, but I tonight I was very impressed with Jay Cutler. He looked good. It seems I was wrong, and it seems Marc Trestman (former Montreal Alouettes Coach–CFL LETS GO!!!!) has had an impact on him. He was getting rid of the ball very quickly. He was taking the checkdown, taking what the defense was giving him, not hesitating to throw it away when the play wasn’t there. Play calling was fantastic. Matt Forte seems to be having an “on” year as well. I don’t know a ton about this team, I don’t know how far they can go. But for me it’d be nice to see them back in the playoffs. They’re a hard working, quiet team, not talked about too much. Their last playoff run ended so strangely and abruptly with Jay Cutler getting injured and sitting out the AFC championship. I was impressed with Jay and their offense tonight, and they seem to be on the right track to make a push for the playoffs.