When Bears GM Ryan Pace discussed the future of the kicking position shortly after the team’s playoff loss to the Eagles, he expressed a desire for a competition to take place with the winner having earned a spot by kicking his way onto the roster. Fair enough. And while chatting up the assembled media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Pace expressed that his search for the team’s next kicker would be a wide-ranging one. What a concept!
With that in mind, let’s not rule out kickers in the Alliance of American Football from the equation.
The Football Database is keeping tabs on how this collection of kickers is doing, and it turns out the league has three kickers who have yet to miss this season (minimum 10 attempts). Considering the Bears’ needs at that position, it’s probably worth tuning in to see if there is anyone is making waves for the right reasons.
Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo will go down as the guy who put up the first points in AAF history, but he also hasn’t missed any of the 10 kicks he has missed since. San Antonio’s Nick Rose (11-for-11) hasn’t missed one either. The best of the bunch to this point is Orlando’s Elliott Fry, who is a perfect 12-for-12 this season.
Even the guys who aren’t perfect are making some hay. Take for example Nick Novak, who helped his future outlook by making a game-winning kick for Birmingham last night:
Watch Nick Novak of @TheAAF’s Birmingham squad win a game with a 44-yard game winning field goal!
Maybe kickers really can come from anywhere….pic.twitter.com/r0Qh9ljrZ8
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) March 18, 2019
The irony of Novak making a clutch field goal against San Diego is not lost on me, but it also has to feel great for him. Not so much for Mike Martz, though.
So … AAF kickers are totally on the Bears’ radar, right? Well, if you were to take Pace at his word, you’d have to think so. Think back to what he said back in February, via Larry Mayer of the Bears’ official website: “They come out of nowhere,” Pace said of kickers. “They develop at different times. Sometimes they get specialized coaching after college, so it can change.”
I guess kicking for The Alliance could count as coming out of nowhere, but Pace makes some astute observations regarding the development and the help additional coaching can provide for a developing kicker. It’s quite possible that this developmental league provides an avenue for kickers to hone their craft in a professional environment with game action when they would otherwise be left to their own devices. Kicking in front of a few thousand fans spread out around a stadium is different from doing so in front of 60,000 at Soldier Field, but the AAF allows for teams to scout kickers in real-game situations, which is better (from a scouting perspective) than what might come from watching a kicker in a climate-controlled indoor facility.
When The Alliance kicked off, I wasn’t holding my breath waiting for the Bears to find Cody Parkey’s replacement in an upstart developmental league. But if these kickers continue to show off their skills, then it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few take the jump into the NFL next year. After all, it’s not like the Bears could do much worse.