The majority of New Orleans Saints fans believe with all their hearts their team would have been in the Super Bowl last season were it not for a missed pass interference call late in the NFC title game with the Los Angeles Rams.
A smaller but still vocal group of Chicago Bears fans believe the Bears might have gone to the Super Bowl last season had place-kicker Cody Parkey not hit the uprights — not once, but twice — on a 43-yard field-goal attempt to win their wild-card game with the Philadelphia Eagles as time expired.
The “double doink,” as it has infamously come to be known, has dominated the off-season narrative around the Bears, and head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have done as much as anyone to perpetuate the focus on it.
At times the hyper-focus on the “double-doink” has become almost comical with the Bears bringing in nine different kickers to try out and no less than eight of them being the focal point of the Bears’ summer OTAs as each gave his best on a separate practice field from the rest of the team looking to advance to training camp.
Two, Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry, emerged from the pack.
While there was much for fans to enjoy at the Bears’ annual Family Night practice on Saturday night at Soldier Field, another showdown between the two kickers was front and center right in the middle of practice.
Each kicker was given eight attempts from different distances, three to the north end zone from 33, 38 and 45 yards, and four more from 38, 48, 53 and 60 aimed at the south uprights. Pineiro was perfect; Fry missed only from 60.
Of note, however, was throughout the summer and leading up to camp almost every time the kickers lined up they would make at least one attempt from the dreaded distance of 43 yards, embracing the pain of last year’s disappointment and serving as a reminder to every one on the team that there is work still to do.
When asked after practice Saturday why there was no 43-yarder, Nagy explained he has decided it is time to move on from last year and get his team’s focus where he believes it needs to be.
“I’ll be serious with you and completely honest with you that,” Nagy said. “We hit that kind of hard in the off-season and we used it.
“But then now we’re into 2019, for me the second we stepped on at Bourbonnais we’re moving past that.
“So, big picture wise, we’re not forgetting that, but the whole kicker thing, I did tell you guys the whole OTAs, we can’t really do much in OTAs with the other guys. We’ve been doing more of that now with the one-on-ones with the wide receivers and safeties etc. and pulling back from the kickers.”
As a teaching moment for his ballclub, the line in the sand and commitment to moving on not only makes complete sense but it’s one more sign that while Nagy may be young as a coach, he often seems wise beyond his years.
Still, a kicker does have to emerge and it’s hard not to feel that Pineiro has had a slight edge in the competition. Saturday night he acknowledged was a good night for him.
“It was fun,” he said. “It felt like I was kicking in a real game. It felt like a real game out there today, so it was cool. Just the environment. The fans. It was pretty cool.
“I was craving a good day like today and just getting over that hump. I always feel like I always miss one or something always goes wrong. But today went well.”
There is no quit in Fry, though, and he thinks both he and Pineiro will make it tough on Pace and Nagy to pick a winner.
“I think it’s going really good,” Fry said. “I think we’re performing a lot better than in OTAs. I think we’re both kicking really well. It’s a solid competition right now; we’re both making kicks.”
Fry isn’t wrong, but as the pair head back to Bourbonnais there is no denying the pressure is now being kicked up a notch.
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.