Cody Parkey exited Soldier Field to a chorus of boos after his 43-yard game-winning attempt clanged off both the upright and the crossbar before bouncing out. He answered questions about it afterwards, and said it was “one of the worst feelings in the world” to let his team down and that he felt terrible. We learned that it was slightly tipped at the line as it began its journey toward the goalpost.
It was one of those memorable football moments, as so many are, that come down to a matter of inches. Mike Jones tackling Kevin Dyson just short of the end zone, or David Tyree clinging to a ball on his helmet. So many of the key moments are cruel twists of fate for the losing team.
Well, spare noted foot enthusiast Rex Ryan any sympathy for Cody Parkey after missing that kick.
“My thoughts are, you’ve got one job to do, I mean, it comes down to one play. And coaches will always be–well, it’s not just that one play–yes it is. You have a job to do, you’ve got to make that kick. And the fact you didn’t, I don’t feel sorry for him. A lot of people–“I feel sorry for that kid.” Really? How about feeling sorry for his teammates and the fanbase you let down. I’m sorry. This guy doesn’t prepare. They don’t do meetings, they don’t do anything. You make a kick.”
Rex Ryan, football guy. This is definitely shades of Buddy Ryan, who also was willing to not take kindly to kickers (remember the Bounty Bowl?)
You know, it isn’t just one play though. Cody Parkey made three of four field goals. Kickers make about 75% of kicks from 43 yards, and that’s before considering that it’s January in Soldier Field. It’s not automatic. Given the distances on all those kicks, there was about a 50% chance he would miss one. Which is to say his performance wasn’t abnormal. Lots of plays decided this game, including a fourth down touchdown at the other end after a long Eagles drive. Including a missed two-point attempt.
The problem revealed here is that coaches have one expectation of kickers (be perfect) and not the same of others. It leads to bad decision making (I’m not saying that happened here, as you had to kick) when the mentality is kickers should do their jobs and you don’t consider the realities. Coaches settle for long field goals rather than “risk” getting more yards. They don’t go for it. They don’t do those things because the punt should always be perfect and the kick should always sail through.
I would submit it’s possible to recognize this as a brutal moment for the Bears and the entire football team while also feeling some sympathy for someone put at the center of it. And maybe, just maybe, having that humanity would make you a better coach.