Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy: Kicker Eddy Pineiro 'Certainly Earned' Kicking Job

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2019

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 29: Eddy Pineiro #15 of the Chicago Bears makes a field goal against the Tennessee Titans during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Eddy Pineiro will open the regular season as the Chicago Bears' starting kicker, head coach Matt Nagy told reporters Sunday.

"We feel like he's certainly earned it," Nagy said, per ESPN's Jeff Dickerson. "We put him—he made it through a lot of mental challenges, physical challenges, working through the highs and lows. It'll be fun to watch. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it. But he deserves it. He earned every right to be our kicker. And we feel good about it."

Chicago acquired Pineiro from the Oakland Raiders in May. He appeared in all four preseason games, going 8-of-9 on field-goal attempts and 3-of-4 on extra points.

This move brings an end to the Bears' prolonged search for their starting kicker.

Chicago released Cody Parkey, last year's starter, in March. Parkey was 23-of-30 on field goals during the regular season. The Bears' playoff run ended in the NFC Wild Card Round when Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester got his fingertips to Parkey's 43-yard attempt in the final seconds.

Sports Illustrated's Kalyn Kahler wrote how that miss loomed large throughout the offseason as Nagy looked at how he would replace Parkey. In addition to showing the team a replay of the missed field goal, he made the eight kickers in camp line up from 43 yards:

"'It's the whole team, the whole coaching staff, the whole front office, all the media watching,' says [Emmit] Carpenter. 'There was a weird feeling about the kick, just because the spot we were kicking from.'

"They went in numerical order. Blewitt missed. Bednarski missed. Jones missed. Carpenter missed. Ultimately, the group went a combined 2-for-8 from what Evans referred to as, 'the Parkey Spot.'"

Many wondered whether the team's single-minded focus on last year outcome was counterproductive:

Danny Parkins @DannyParkins

I’m telling ya, the Bears have created a situation where whoever their kicker is has a home field disadvantage.

Andy Herman @AndyHermanNFL

The Bears have successfully created an environment where no kicker can ever feel confident. It’s amazing to see.

Nagy made it clear Sunday he will move on from Pineiro if the 23-year-old struggles in his new role:

"In the end, for all of us, it's about production. When are those kicks coming? How often are they coming? And he knows that. We're real with him. We're honest with him. But we try not to think of the glass-half-empty type deal. He's got real good confidence going about him right now. We as a staff have a real good confidence going about us. We feel good about it."

Pineiro is set to earn $495,000 in 2019 and $660,000 in 2020 under his current deal, though none of that money would still count against the salary cap were the Bears to release him at any point.

Considering Chicago has Super Bowl aspirations this season, Nagy may not give Pineiro a long leash should he start to lose faith in his abilities.