Eddy Pineiro Has Kicking Job but Bears Keep Looking
General manager Ryan Pace seemed to put the infamous Chicago Bears kicking controversy to bed after the season, and after Eddy Pineiro got hot at season's end.
Pace didn't quite say "our long national nightmare is over," and he definitely didn't pardon Cody Parkey, but he seemed set on Pineiro as kicker.
"The goal the whole time was to hit on a young kicker that we can grow," Pace said. "We feel like we've done that with Eddy. He finished the season strong, made 11 straight field goals. We feel like he's going to continue to get better."
Great. And oh, just in case ... the Bears talked to a kicker at the Senior Bowl.
So how confident are they really in Pineiro's season, one that ended with a 23-of-28 performance at 82.1%, including 2-for-2 from 50 yards or longer?
Pineiro did make 11 straight to finish the season but only three of those were longer than extra points. He made kicks from 22, 24, two from 26, 27, two from 30, one from 33, one from 34 one from 36 and his real bomb in that run from 46 yards for three meaningless points against the Chiefs in a blowout loss.
So how confident can they really be?
The Bears interviewed Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship at the Senior Bowl.
Pineiro did finish with a better rookie percentage than Robbie Gould did. The Super Bowl kicker for the 49ers had a mark of 78% (21 of 27) as a rookie for a Bears team in 2005 that made the playoffs. Pineiro didn't quite beat out the famed "Butthead," Kevin Butler, in his rookie year but that was an outstanding performance for a rookie even by today's much tougher kicking standards. Butler went 31 of 37 as a rookie. Still, Pineiro's 2-for-2 from 50-plus was better than Butler's 0-for-2 from 50 or longer.
Blankenship went 66-for-79 for 83.5% in his career, including 6 of 8 on kicks from 50 and longer. He made all 174 extra points he tried in college, although those are shorter than the NFL extra points, that kind of record has to count for something.
Blankenship was coached initially at Georgia by Butler, the former Bear kicker who played for the 1985 Bears championship team and also at Georgia.
You have to do your due diligence in the personnel game and Pace probably was just doing his with Blankenship, although it would never hurt to bring in another kicker just for a look at camp and in the offseason.
The Bears seemed content with their trio of specialists in the kicking game at season's end: Pineiro, punter Pat O'Donnell and long snapper Patrick Scales.
"That (specialists) room is very tight with Scales and him (Pineiro), they all push each other," Pace said. "I think (special teams coordinator Chris) Tabor did a great job with that development as well. We're excited to see that continue to play out."
Yet, they also have interviewed punter Braden Mann of Texas A&M and long snapper Blake Ferguson from LSU at the Senior Bowl.
More precautionary work, but the Bears can never be too confident in their specialists. The next Parkey could be right around the corner.