LAKE FOREST — By about the fifth question regarding embattled Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey, it was easy to see the change in expression and tone with head coach Matt Nagy.
Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace met with reporters on Monday afternoon to put a wrap on the Bears' 2018 season, and they certainly were geared up for specific questions about Parkey, whose infamous missed field-goal attempt — the "Double Doink," as it's now well-known — in the playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles ended the Bears' season.
But when asked about Parkey's later appearance on "The Today Show" to talk about that final miss, Nagy might not have been able to help himself. Already sitting anxiously in his seat behind the Halas Hall podium, Nagy turned serious when asked if he thought Parkey's decision to go on the show was something he was aware of beforehand.
"For me, you understand that we always talk about it being a ‘we’ think and not a ‘me’ thing," Nagy said. "And we talk as a team — we win as a team, we lose as a team. I just ... I just didn’t necessarily think that was too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
Asked if he thought Parkey's appearance was appropriate, Nagy doubled down: “I didn’t think it was a ‘we’ thing.”
And with that, it became abundantly clear: The Bears will have a new kicker in 2019.
Previously during the session, Pace took a more diplomatic tone when asked about his kicking situation, saying the position would be "an emphasis for us" and "an area of focus.” Pace added that the Bears "need to be better there" and that they "need more production" there.
Asked if Parkey will be a Bear next season, Pace sidestepped the question somewhat.
“Those are things that need to play out,” he said.
But it was clear from Nagy that the Bears didn't know about Parkey going on the show. The coach met with 65 players for exit interviews following the Bears' 16-15 loss to the Eagles and said he had "a good interview" in the time spent with Parkey. But the kicker didn't mention the TV appearance then, and Nagy said he didn't know exactly when he heard about it.
Nagy certainly watched it, though. And the look on his face prior to talking about his kicker clearly left the impression that for all Nagy did to back him up publicly and privately and all the support the Bears showed, including shuttling him to weekly kicking sessions an hour's drive away at Soldier Field before home games, was not reciprocated to him by Parkey with the decision to go on the talk show.
Most players' in-season appearances typically are reviewed by NFL teams' media relations staffs and often are run through the head coach for approval first. That clearly was not the procedure with Parkey here. It's also possible — and extremely likely — that Parkey's appearance was booked outside of the team's knowledge on any level.
The bottom line, of course, was Parkey's performance this season after he signed a four-year, $15 million deal with $9 million of it guaranteed. He missed seven-field goal tries during the regular season — including four that also hit the uprights in a win over the Lions — three regular-season extra-point tries and the playoff miss after making his first three tries in that game.
We previously discussed the pros and cons of bringing Parkey back, and how cutting him will result in a salary-cap hit of just over $4 million. That will sting if and when it happens, especially as the Bears are projected to be somewhere around $20 million under the cap currently, and they have a few starters who are pending free agents, including S Adrian Amos, CB Bryce Callahan and OT Bobby Massie.
Pace's comments about "competition" at the kicker position appears to eliminate the idea of a Parkey-level salary being added to the mix. So would that seemingly eliminate free-agent-to-be Robbie Gould as an option?
Pace and Nagy were not asked specifically about Gould, the Bears' all-time leading scorer who was cut by the team back in 2016, a decision that Pace appeared resolute about at the time. But Gould has kicked brilliantly the past two seasons, making the Bears' decision look poor in retrospect — along with the Bears' relative struggles at the position.
Gould actually attended the loss to the Eagles and maintains a home in the area. It's not clear what kind of price might make him consider a return to Chicago — and we don't know if the Bears even will consider that option. The idea of competition suggests that the kicker position will be decided by some combination of a veteran and a young player, perhaps even one from the 2019 NFL draft.
But the option that feels the most remote at this point after Nagy spoke is Parkey coming back to kick for his job again. Nothing the coach said or did on Monday suggests that's anywhere in the plan going forward.