Big shoes to fill for NFL kickers

Cody Parkey, Kicker for the Chicago Bears (Courtesy of the NFL)

Cody Parkey, Kicker for the Chicago Bears (Courtesy of the NFL)

Sammy Rubin

On January 6, the Chicago Bears took on the Philadelphia Eagles at their home stadium, Soldier Field. This highly anticipated playoff matchup was extremely competitive, containing four lead changes. The game came down to the wire as the Bears were trailing the Eagles 16-15 late in the fourth quarter. They had to overcome a one-point deficit late in the game in order to get one step closer to the Super Bowl. All the Bears needed was a field goal but they only had 56 seconds remaining on the clock.

Mitchell Trubisky(Quarterback) led the Bears offense to the Philadelphia 25 yard line. Matt Nagy, the Head Coach of the Chicago Bears, decided to play it safe by calling a timeout immediately to make sure the clock would not run out. The stage was set for the Chicago Bears kicker, Cody Parkey. He has quite a rocky history with the Eagles. In September of 2016, Cody Parkey was cut from the Philadelphia Eagles, making him vengeful towards his former team and making him want the team to regret their decision.

With only 10 seconds left on the clock, Cody Parkey was aware that this was his team’s only chance to advance in the playoffs. Before the field goal play started, Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson elected to “ice” the kicker. “Icing” the kicker means to call a timeout just before the center of the opposing team snaps the ball. This causes the kicker to overthink the field goal, therefore making him miss the kick. Coming back from the timeout, it appeared that Cody Parkey was not fazed by the decision of the Philadelphia coach. Parkey claimed that he had a lot of confidence going into this kick because he made all three previous field goals.

Parkey missed the kick, hitting the left upright and then hitting the front goal post of the structure that stands right behind the end zone. These two bounces off the goal posts earned this kick the nickname “double doink.” After looking at replays later, the referees were able to conclusively tell that the ball was tipped by Eagles Defensive Tackle, Treyvon Hester, at the line of scrimmage. Even though the ball was deflected, most argue that Parkey still should have executed the field goal.

After he missed the field goal, the Chicago Bears’ players were still accepting of him. One of his teammates, Akiem Hicks, stated that “[Cody Parkey is] our guy…I’m going to ride with my guy. If you have that ‘C’ on your helmet, I’m going to ride with you to the end. I don’t care what happens on the field. We are together, that’s it.” Encouraging words will help Cody Parkey power through this tough time.

The fans can be very hateful towards those that are vulnerable, but Cody Parkey said that he has stayed off social media in order to protect himself. Instead of being depressed about this melancholy situation, Cody Parkey explained that he is maintaining a positive mindset by exclaiming that “At the end of the day, [he is] going to hold [his] head high. When things aren’t going [his] way, [he is] just going to continue to think positive and keep swinging.

A similar case to Parkey’s in the NFL occurred during the 2015 NFC Wild Card Game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. Vikings Kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27 yard field goal late in the game, which would have propelled the Vikings over the Seahawks. Missing the field goal wide left caused outrage amongst Minnesota fans. Walsh received hateful comments and was released from the team shortly after.

In contrast to being the Achilles heel, kickers can actually be the heroes of their teams. In the NFC championship of this year’s playoffs, Greg Zuerlein played a huge role in the Los Angeles Rams victory over the New Orleans Saints. He was able to make a 48 yard field goal just before regulation time to tie the score up and send the game into overtime. He didn’t stop there. In overtime, Zuerlein drilled a 57 yard field goal, making it the longest game-winning field goal in playoff history. The Rams kicker was able to execute his job for his team and send them to the Super Bowl.

Are NFL kickers under too much pressure, or should fans expect them to make the field goals as they are paid to do? After all, Cody Parkey did score nine out of Chicago’s 15 points in the game. Everybody messes up from time to time because not everyone is perfect. Death threats have been made towards Cody Parkey’s family and Blair Walsh’s family. This goes to show that fans emotions can go way too far. There are things much bigger than football. As Cody Parkey stated,”Football is what I do, it is not who I am.”