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Nagy defends Bears’ kicker search amid backlash

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy defended the manner in which his team conducted its offseason kicker search after multiple kickers that attended the rookie minicamp back in May on a tryout basis and left without a contract were highly critical of the process.

“I understand — we brought in a lot of kickers that came in here,” Nagy said Wednesday. “To me, I look at it as a positive, in the fact that we said we going to turn over every stone to find whoever’s out there. We felt like we, at that point in time, when we brought in a bunch of kickers, we’re going to test them all out and see what they can do.

“And then, within that time frame, we also put in some situations with the Augusta Silence early on to see how they could handle it. Is it exactly the perfect science? I don’t know that, maybe not…I just really like how we’re going through this thing. [Bears general manager] Ryan [Pace] and I talk about no regrets, right?”

Sports Illustrated published a story Wednesday that quoted several of the nine kickers — some of them anonymously — that the Bears brought in for an audition at rookie camp. The kickers’ complaints ranged from Nagy’s obsession with Parkey’s missed 43-yard field goal attempt in Chicago’s playoff loss to the Eagles (the infamous double-doink), the way the Bears used metrics to evaluate the kickers, the overall negative mood in the special teams’ room and a perceived bias that involved kicker consultant Jamie Kohl, who the Bears hired to aid them in their search.

Many, but not all, of the kickers invited to Halas Hall had at one time kicked at one of Kohl’s camps.

“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,'” one kicker told SI. “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.”

Another kicker added: “All the vibes they gave us during the specialists meetings just did not seem positive whatsoever. It didn’t seem like anyone did well. The vibe and the energy was off.”

Former Notre Dame kicker Justin Yoon took issue with Nagy harping on Parkey’s 43-yard miss. The Bears repeatedly in the offseason program called for their kickers to attempt field goals from 43 yards.

“It’s not efficient for the team to continuously beat that one dead horse the whole time,” Yoon said. “You have to build a system of confidence for your kicker. I don’t think that’s how the Bears are running it.”

The Bears eventually whittled their list of kickers down to two at the beginning of training camp, but on Sunday, they waived Elliott Fry, which left Eddy Pineiro — acquired by the Raiders via a trade — as the lone kicker left on Chicago’s current 90-man offseason roster.

The Bears want Pineiro to handle all kicks in the final two preseason games, but he’s not been assured of the job. Pineiro, who spent last year on injured reserve in Oakland, has never attempted a kick in an NFL regular-season game.

“I really don’t believe there’s a kicker out there that never misses in practice and in the games,” Nagy said. “It’s how you respond to it … so we keep that in mind.

“Remember what I told you before, it’s really easy in Chicago as a head coach of the Chicago Bears, as a fan of the Chicago Bears, as the media of the Chicago Bears, as the team of the Chicago Bears, it’s really easy for us to just destroy every missed kick. And I think we have to keep those things in a little perspective and not get too crazy over a missed kick here or there.”

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