Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace believed he was doing the right thing when he decided to part ways with Robbie Gould and sign Connor Barth right before the start of the 2016 season. At least, that’s how he saw things when the team signed Barth after he had been cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in May and New Orleans Saints in September.
“When a player comes available that we feel good about, we have to consider it,” Pace said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “And sometimes make the hard decisions.”
Of course, that’s not how it’s played out since the transaction was executed:
When you realize Robbie Gould (93.5%) has the highest success rate among kickers since the start of 2016 and Connor Barth (74.4%) has the lowest success rate in the same span. pic.twitter.com/8vYgAa0kA0
— The Ten-Yard Line (@TheTenYardLine) November 20, 2017
Gould was the all-time leader in made field goals (276), field goal percentage (85.4%), and scoring (1,207 points) when Pace released him in favor of adding Barth. On the surface, it was a questionable move to get rid of the team’s most consistent offensive asset who also happened to be a locker room leader at the start of a rebuild.
Perhaps the general manager was a victim of recency bias. After all, the end of Gould’s career with the Bears coincided with the start of Pace’s regime. And when Gould’s career was winding down in Chicago, he wasn’t kicking with the same accuracy as he had prior to Pace’s arrival.
Gould’s final two seasons in Chicago were arguably the two worst of his career. In 2014 and 2015, Gould made just 82.4 percent of his field goal attempts, which represented a significant drop from the 86.9 percent clip he connected on since the start of the 2006 season. That Gould was dealing with a quad injury that caused him to miss four games didn’t help matters.
When your team is 3-7, the kicking game isn’t going to be the biggest priority. But when your head coach’s goal is to keep games close and hope to pull it out in the end, kicking accuracy should be higher on the priority list.
In signing Cairo Santos, the Bears fixed a short-term need with a player who is basically under a long-term tryout for 2018. Hopefully, Santos is healthy and as good as his stats suggest.