Kalyn Kahler (Sports Illustrated) dug deep in attempt to piece together what the heck went on during the Bears’ nine-man kicking competition last spring and how it helped get us to where we are today …
… and the anonymous comments, conspiracy theories, and all-around craziness is a little shocking to take in:
Unyielding pressure, conspiracy theories, cryptic analytics, Doppler technology, a bizarre air of secrecy and a coaching staff’s obsession with the final, heartbreaking moment of last szn. The Bears are down to 1 kicker- for now- here's how they got there:https://t.co/yRNM9Gkepq pic.twitter.com/iJ7evV92YU
— Kalyn Kahler (@kalynkahler) August 21, 2019
We knew the Bears’ search for a kicker was going to be unlike anything we have ever seen, but didn’t know how off-the-rails it would be. So naturally, this is a must-read piece that has a lot to digest from top to bottom, and I encourage you to check it out in full. For now, though, let’s try to highlight some key points.
To begin, the article features three perspectives on the circus from the inside – two kickers (who were cut) dumped on it, but the third (who was also cut) thought of it as good preparation for his next camp. Although that’s somewhat revealing, part of me still feels that the story is incomplete. Indeed, it would’ve been nice to get the other side of the equation.
HOWEVER, Head Coach Matt Nagy and Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor limited their communication to post-practice press conferences and declined multiple interview requests. Jamie Kohl, the newly hired kicking consultant whose camps produce some of the league’s better kickers, agreed to interview with Khaler for the story, but later declined the request. And yet, that’s the least of the Kohl-related concerns in this story.
One kicker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dropped a conspiracy theory that Kohl was favoring the kickers he worked with previously at his camps in the Bears’ competition. For real …
“All of Jamie’s guys, they could have shanked the kick, and it was like, Oh, you have really good rotation, your foot is wrapping around the ball. … I don’t think this situation will be solved or will be what the team needs to be until Jamie Kohl is gone. The way he very much tries to control a room, tries to be the alpha.”
That anonymous kicker apparently wasn’t alone, as Kahler writes that several competitors were concerned that Kohl didn’t remove his biases when grading and evaluating the results. That might be sour grapes from a kicker who is still out on the market looking for a gig. But I can understand why that would be a concern. After all, one of that weekend’s winners was Chris Blewitt, who had a prior history with Kohl. And later, the Bears brought in Eddy Piñeiro, who currently sits as the last leg standing in the competition. Piñeiro worked out with Kohl previously, as well.
The anonymous kickers weren’t the only ones who had issues with the Bears’ process.
In talking with long-time special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, the nine-man kicking competition was “ridiculous.” He even went as far as to call it a “sham.”
Westhoff coached special teams for the Colts (1982-84), Dolphins (1986-2000), Jets (2001-12), and Saints (2017-18), so he probably knows a thing or two about the third phase. But those are some strong words. And when it was brought up to Adam Vinatieri, whose next stop after his career is over will be at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, he laughed after taking a moment to reflect on the idea of competing as part of a nine-man contest.
In the end, I like the way the Bears handled their kicking competition within the context of what was available. They went outside their walls to hire a consultant who specializes in kicking, brought in waves of worthy legs who needed to do something spectacular in order to stand out from the rest, and were weirdly obsessive about the entire process. That might not reflect well in the eyes of some, but it was pretty #onbrand for Nagy and his team.
For a complete run-down of the situation, I encourage you to read Kahler’s piece on SI.com.